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Same-sex marriage case goes to Privy Council next month

The Privy Council of the United Kingdom (File photograph)

The legal battle over same-sex marriage will be heard by the Privy Council in London next month, the court has confirmed.

The Government has appealed against judgments in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal that sections of the Domestic Partnership Act which prohibited same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

The case has been included in the Privy Council’s schedule for February 3 and 4.

The appeal will be heard by a panel including Lord Reed, President of the Supreme Court, Lord Hodge, Deputy President of the Supreme Court, Lady Arden, Justice of the Supreme Court, Lord Sales, Justice of the Supreme Court, and Dame Victoria Sharp, President of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice.

The ruling by Britain's highest court could set a precedent for same-sex marriage across the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, as well as Commonwealth countries.

Same-sex marriages in Bermuda was legalised in May 2017 when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche.

The two argued their rights under the Human Rights Act were breached by the Registrar's refusal to post their marriage banns.

The court's decision paved the way for others to wed.

The Government passed the Domestic Partnership Act later that year, which upheld existing same-sex marriages but banned any more.

The legislation offered same sex couples the option of domestic partnerships instead.

But Roderick Ferguson launched a legal action to fight the clauses which prohibited same sex marriage on Constitutional grounds and the case was joined by Maryellen Jackson and gay rights group OutBermuda.

Other plaintiffs listed were Gordon Campbell, a trustee of the Wesley Methodist Church in Hamilton, and Sylvia Hayward, the pastor of the gay-friendly Vision Church, which opened in 2009.

Then Chief Justice Ian Kawaley ruled in their favour in May 2018 and the Bermuda Court of Appeal later dismissed an appeal by the Attorney-General.

The Government got an automatic right of appeal in the Privy Council because the ruling was based on a Constitutional argument.

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Published January 08, 2021 at 8:30 am (Updated January 11, 2021 at 3:23 pm)

Same-sex marriage case goes to Privy Council next month

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