Pettingill may launch challenge to new Bill

  • Weighing things up: Mark Pettingill may bring civil case (Photograph by Nicola Muirhead)

    Weighing things up: Mark Pettingill may bring civil case (Photograph by Nicola Muirhead)

Lawyer Mark Pettingill is to consider a constitutional challenge to legislation designed to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships.

Mr Pettingill told The Royal Gazette that a gay couple had approached him to weigh up the potential of taking the case to court on constitutional grounds.

The former Attorney-General played a major role in the island’s human rights battle over same-sex marriage when he represented Winston Godwin and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche in the civil case that led to a Supreme Court ruling that enabled gay couples to marry in Bermuda.

Mr Pettingill stressed the couple had yet to decide “if, and it’s very much if, we were to proceed”.

He added: “A couple is seeking advice with regard to a challenge on the basis that their constitutional rights are being infringed by the passing of this Bill.

“We are in the process of considering that position. Certainly, it’s not a novel concept, where Bills have been challenged in the past, both in Bermuda and other jurisdictions.

“There is a lot of precedent for this. More importantly, a constitution has to be read as a living, breathing document in modern time.

“The fundamental rights of the individual in accordance with section one of the constitution are sacrosanct.”

Mr Pettingill was a prominent critic of the Domestic Partnership Act 2017, which was approved by the Senate last week.

He said it was “disheartening”, and a “watering down” of human rights.

The legislation, which would offer partnerships to heterosexual as well as same-sex couples, was put out for public consultation last month by Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs.

Mr Brown said the debate had been “a prolonged matter of great division”.

A home affairs ministry spokeswoman said there had been 3,024 e-mail responses, including 16 received after the consultation deadline.

The majority, 2,836, were “robot” e-mails from overseas, all in support of same-sex marriage.

The ministry received 188 e-mails from Bermuda residents.

A total of 22 of them came from “a local activist”.

The spokeswoman added there were six e-mails from opponents of same-sex marriage, and four from “persons who gave specific comments about the Bill”.

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