Preserve Marriage appeals court’s same-sex ruling

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  • Maxwell Burgess

    Maxwell Burgess


Opponents of same-sex marriage have filed an application to appeal against the landmark Supreme Court ruling which allowed gay couples to wed in Bermuda. The request for permission to appeal the May 5 judgment is understood to have been made to the Registrar of the Supreme Court “out of time” ie after the six-week window during which appeals usually have to be lodged.

Preserve Marriage are behind the application, which features the names of thousands of people who signed a petition against same-sex marriage in the past week. Those listed describe themselves as an “aggrieved party” in the matter.

Among them is former politician Maxwell Burgess, who is named on the notice of appeal as a spokesman for the petition signatories.

In a press release yesterday, Mr Burgess said he felt “obligated to lead the charge for the community to appeal” the ruling by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons.

He said the “agenda of a few” was overriding the “will of the country as a whole” and claimed 8,000 people had signed the petition in the space of 48 hours. The Registrar will decide whether the application can proceed at this stage, before a judge determines whether to give leave to appeal the matter to the Court of Appeal.

The applicants may have to provide security of costs for the appeal to go ahead and legal sources speculated yesterday that it could prove costly, with as much as $300,000 having to be placed in an escrow account.

The original Supreme Court proceedings were brought against the Government by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé Greg DeRoche after the Registrar-General refused to post their wedding banns.

After hearing the case, in which Preserve Marriage intervened, Mrs Justice Simmons agreed with the couple that their human rights had been breached and issued an order, the wording of which is still to be finalised, declaring that same-sex marriage was legal on the island. At least one gay couple has since tied the knot and Government has said it will not appeal the ruling.

Mark Pettingill, representing Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, said yesterday: “We are aware of their [Preserve Marriage’s] attempts to file an appeal. There are significant consequences when cases are appealed by aggrieved parties.”

He added: “Any lawyer would advise that the basis for an appeal is non-existent.”

Rod Attride-Stirling, who represented the Human Rights Commission, another intervener in the Godwin and DeRoche case, has previously said: “The judgment is sound and the legal issues that are the basis of the judgment are all correct.”

It wasn’t possible to reach Mr Burgess yesterday. Lawyer Rick Woolridge, who is representing the applicants seeking to appeal, said he would take instruction from his clients before commenting.

Mr Burgess’s press release did not refer specifically to the application filed with the court but invited those who signed the petition to attend one of two meetings last night at the Heritage Worship Centre in Hamilton.

The sessions were open only to petition signatories who brought ID along to verify who they were.

“I want to thank the 8,000 who came out to sign and, since we have closed stations, we have been inundated with requests from others who want to sign and be included,” said Mr Burgess.

“As a result, due to public demand, stations will reopen this week to allow more members of the community to sign the appeal.”

The petition can be signed today and Friday from 8am to 8pm and on Saturday from 9am to 4pm at Calvary Gospel Chapel, 18 Middle Road, Southampton; Sound View First Church of God, 75 Sound View Road, Sandys; Heritage Worship Centre, Hamilton; the Evangelical Church, 1 Mission Road, Paget; and the “Old” St George’s Youth Centre, 23 Water Street. It can also be signed at the First Church of God, on North Shore Road, Pembroke, from 9am to 7.30pm today and Friday.

Mr Burgess said the Government should have lodged an appeal against the judgment and should pay costs in the case.

He claimed Preserve Marriage could be left “bankrupt” if it was ordered to pay costs to Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche and the Human Rights Commission.

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