Burt details further SSM legal advice costs
The Premier said yesterday that the Government paid $14,000 for legal advice before it decided to take its battle to ban same-sex marriage to the Privy Council in London.
David Burt told the House of Assembly the Government had spent £11,250 — about $14,140 — on legal advice so far in connection with its appeal to the island’s highest court of appeal.
He added that the Bermuda Court of Appeal case last month cost £41,750, about $52,000.
The on-island costs, however, were about $9,000 lower than those given by the Ministry of Home Affairs about two weeks ago.
A spokeswoman for Mr Burt explained later that the Premier’s figure did not include the cost for travel for the London-based barrister retained to argue the Government’s case.
The home affairs ministry said earlier that the cost to hire James Guthrie QC, for the Court of Appeal case, fly him to Bermuda and house him in the island totalled $61,188.
That amount did not include the effects of a costs order — which required Government to pay for both sides of the legal battle — or any other legal expenses that may have been run up.
Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, said yesterday that the case was important to Bermuda’s people and that the Government wanted to go to the highest court of appeal to “get it right”.
However, Rod Ferguson, one of the parties in the landmark case, said stringing out the legal battle would hurt Bermuda.
He said: “The Government’s efforts to repeal same-sex marriage have come at quite a cost, not only monetarily, but also in terms of the impact on Bermuda’s LGBT community, and our island’s reputation overseas.
“The courts have not found merit in the Government’s legal defence thus far and are highly unlikely to do so upon appeal.”
OutBermuda, a gay rights charity, also said it was disappointed by the Privy Council move.
Zakiya Johnson Lord, director of OutBermuda, said: “Our courts have consistently reaffirmed the equal right of same-sex couples to marry.
“To fan the flames of discrimination is irresponsible and costly, on all levels.
“We want to come together. Marriage equality has come to our shores. Let’s put this in the ‘done’ column and keep moving forward together as a people.”
The announcement put the island back in the international media spotlight. NBC News in America, the Jamaica Gleaner and other media organisations all reported the story.
However, a spokesman for Preserve Marriage, a campaign that fought to keep a ban on same-sex marriage, welcomed the decision to go to the Privy Council.
Melvyn Bassett, the group’s chairman, said: “We are pleased that the Government is doing its best to represent the views of the obvious thousands of Bermudians, as well as those shared by Preserve Marriage and Family Bermuda.”