Civil union legislation plans unveiled
The Bermuda Government has unveiled plans to table legislation allowing civil unions between same-sex couples.
But Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General, told a public meeting last night that the One Bermuda Alliance had no intention of same-sex marriage becoming law.
About 100 people attended the presentation at CedarBridge Academy, during which many praised and welcomed the Government’s new stance, while others expressed opposition to the proposals.
Mr Moniz told the meeting that the move would bring Bermuda in line with the European Convention of Human Rights and recent legal precedent set in both Bermuda and Europe.
“There is nothing to be afraid of,” he said. “We are putting our cards on the table and recognising that it is a compromise but it is the best thing to do for everyone.
“All we are talking about is giving people their rights required by law.”
Mr Moniz said the Government planned to table legislation in the House of Assembly before February 29; a deadline set by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley in the landmark Bermuda Bred Company decision at which time the ruling will take effect.
In that case Dr Justice Kawaley ruled that those in same-sex partnerships with Bermudians should have the same rights to reside and seek employment as spouses of Bermudians
Mr Moniz said: “We will protect marriage for a man and a woman but we will also propose the idea of civil unions.
“If the legislation comes through the House of Assembly that will be a conscious vote. Whether it passes or fails is a question of the individual.
“If it does not pass, the Chief Justice’s ruling is still in place and he will act accordingly.”
Under the proposed legislation, same-sex couples will obtain the right to work in Bermuda without a work permit upon registering their relationship as a civil union with the Registry General department.
Mr Moniz maintained that putting the issue to a referendum was not appropriate adding: “This Government has no intention of same-sex marriage becoming law. The Matrimonial Causes Act will have primacy over the Human Rights Act in that regard.”
The proposed civil union legislation will only apply to same-sex couples. Under the proposals couples will have to be 18 to undertake a civil union and they will have to issue a notice to the Registrar General of the intended union that will be “publicly notified”.
The new laws stipulate that civil unions can take place before the registrar by signing the necessary documentation in the presence of two witnesses. They may also be formalised before a civil union “celebrant” by making a declaration of commitment to each other in the presence of two witnesses.
Clergy that want to be registered as a “celebrant” have to register with the Registrar General.
Under the new regime, objections could be lodged against a civil union if parties are underage or already married and the objections would be heard by a judge to determine whether the union was lawful. Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Community, Cultural Affairs and Sports, said: “The Matrimonial Causes Act will remain in place.
“There will be legislation tabled so that section 15 will continue to define marriage between a man and a woman and there will be a clause in that segment to have supremacy over the Human Rights Act.
“We don’t want to see people in our community becoming alienated and we don’t want to see them leave the country.”
Under the proposed Civil Union Act, same-sex marriage performed in another jurisdictions will only be recognised in Bermuda as a civil union. Furthermore, it will only be recognised after it has been registered with the Registrar General.
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