Same-sex ruling: the likely implications
The Supreme Court’s judgment expanding the rights of same-sex partners could have profound and wide-ranging effects on legislation and the workings of government departments.
Shortly after yesterday’s ruling Michael Fahy, the Minister of Home Affairs, called a press conference to set out some of the anticipated ramifications of the ground-breaking court case.
He said the judgment did not affect the definition of marriage in Bermuda, but admitted the Bermuda Government was examining what laws and processes might need to be changed to bring them in line with the ruling.
Sen Fahy told the media that the case could have consequences on legislation relating to bankruptcy, estates, wills, health insurance, pensions, and social insurance.
“The Chief Justice has made declarations of law that certain provisions of our immigration legislation shall be inoperative to the extent that they authorise me, as minister, to deny residential and employment rights to same-sex partners of persons who possess and enjoy Bermuda status who have formed a stable relationship,” he said.
“The judgment states that such individuals who have formed stable relationships with Bermudians, have the same rights of residency and employment comparable to those conferred on spouses of Bermudians.”
Government’s legal team yesterday asked the Chief Justice for a 12-month suspension of the declaration while it considered what legislative changes might need to be made.
The request will be heard during a separate hearing in the next two weeks. Sen Fahy said that a decision on whether or not to appeal against the judgment would not be made until after that hearing.
He told yesterday’s press conference that the ruling posed a number of other issues that would need to be resolved.
He said: “Under current immigration policy, if partners, whether same sex or not, are in a genuine and subsisting relationship as between a Bermudian and a non-Bermudian, the non-Bermudian is able to seek employment but would require a work permit in the event of finding employment.
“The Chief Justice has spoken of stable partnerships. As such, this policy will too need to be revisited.
“The ministry must also now address the differential treatment that arises by way of this declaration as between same-sex couples who are unmarried and opposite-sex couples who are unmarried.
“The declaration appears to suggest that an opposite-sex couple that are in a stable relationship would potentially still require a work permit. That is an issue which is still under active review.”
Sen Fahy added: “Individuals who feel they are affected by the ruling may consider submitting applications to the Department of Immigration for spousal letters, landing permits, and other such documentation.
“We ask for individuals to be patient because our administrative procedures may need to be amended to deal with any new applications.
“However, because this matter is not finalised, the department will be unable to process any applications that may derive from this declaration at this time.”