Le Pays De France - Britain's Privy Council upholds Bermuda gay marriage ban

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Britain's Privy Council upholds Bermuda gay marriage ban
Britain's Privy Council upholds Bermuda gay marriage ban

Britain's Privy Council upholds Bermuda gay marriage ban

A British tribunal upheld a ban on gay marriage in Bermuda Monday, in a departure from Western trends towards equality and a blow to campaigners in one of the colonial power's few remaining overseas territories.

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The Privy Council in London, which is the last court of appeal for some British territories, sided with the Bermuda government, which has been fighting to keep its Supreme Court from enshrining marriage equality in the self-governing archipelago.

"To my fellow LGBTQ+ Bermudians, I wish to say to you what I also need to hear at this moment: you matter. Your hurt matters. You deserve better than this," said Roderick Ferguson, the lead co-plaintiff in the case.

"The Bermuda Government's crusade against same-sex marriage was waged to convince you that there's something shameful about your sexuality. Don't believe that tired old lie."

Marriage equality was legalised in Britain in 2014, and self-governing Bermuda's Supreme Court followed three years later.

But months afterward, the governing Progressive Labour Party voted to overturn that ruling, in an unusual turnabout against prevailing Western norms legalising marriage equality.

Instead it approved the Domestic Partnership Act, which replaced the right to marriage with the ability to form same-sex partnerships.

The move was supported by the island's many socially conservative churches, but caused an outcry among progressive Bermudians who felt that the decision would tarnish the reputation of what had been a popular destination for both tourism and the reinsurance industry.

It also raised questions over the status of couples who had married in the intervening months.

Campaigners took the Domestic Partnerships Act back to the island's Supreme Court as well as its the Court of Appeals, both of which sided against the government.

The island's attorney general then took it to the Privy Council, which dismissed the earlier courts' rulings and upheld the government's ban.

"The Board will humbly advise Her Majesty that the Attorney General's appeal should be allowed and the cross-appeal by the respondents should be dismissed," it said in its ruling.

Bermuda conducted a referendum on same-sex marriage in June 2016.

A majority of those voting opposed both same-sex marriages and same-sex civil unions, but since fewer than half of eligible voters took part, the results were deemed invalid.

In 2019, as the marriage equality row rumbled on, Bermuda held its first ever Pride parade -- and campaigners were taken aback by the outpouring of support they received from Bermudians of all races and ages.

"We discovered for the first time, the magnitude of our support on the island," Ferguson told AFP. "No ruling will ever overturn that."