First gay couple allowed to marry in Bermuda

family law

The Supreme Court of Bermuda has ruled that a same sex couple can become the first to marry on the Caribbean island.

The country’s Registrar-General had previously denied an application by Winston Godwin and Canadian Greg DeRoche for a marriage licence. In response, the couple launched a legal bid to have this decision overturned.

Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that Bermuda’s definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman was “inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation”. The couple in question had been “discriminated against on the basis of their [sexuality] when the Registrar refused to process their notice of intended marriage” she said.

The courtroom erupted into applause when the decision was announced, and the law change went into effect immediately. Godwin and DeRoche told local media that they were going to resubmit their marriage application “within days”.

LGBT rights group the Bermuda Rainbow Alliance welcomed the ruling, which they said was a victory for “a brave young couple willing to fight for their love”.

An editorial in the island’s Royal Gazette newspaper celebrated the result of this case with a series of jabs aimed at gay marriage opponents. Following the decision, “a casual look outdoors revealed the sky was not falling; nor was it red [and] a saunter towards the coastlines revealed there was no tsunami hurtling towards Bermuda to send us whence we came” it joked.

The Supreme Court’s decision had “provided the foundation for a same-sex marriage to take place in Bermuda in the future and no one died” the piece continued.

“Nothing changed. But for a couple in love.”

Last year, Bermuda held a referendum on this contentious issue. Voters were asked two questions: were they in favour of same sex marriage and did they approve of same sex civil unions? Although both questions were met with a resounding ‘no’, turnout for the referendum was under 47 per cent. This was below the 50 per cent requirement of such votes so the results were declared invalid.

Photo of Sessions House, home of the Supreme Court of Bermuda, by TravelingOtter via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

View more from this author

1 comment

Chuck Anziulewicz - May 9, 2017 at 4:40pm

Congratulations, Bermuda. Nothing indeed has changed, except that Gay couples are a little happier. There was never any justification for denying law-abiding, taxpaying same-sex couples the same legal benefits and opportunities that opposite-sex couples have always taken for granted. Procreation has nothing to do with it, since couples do not need to marry to make babies, and the ability or even desire to make babies is not a prerequisite for obtaining a marriage license.

And besides: Isn’t getting married preferable to just “shacking up” together?

Leave a comment