Privy Council to rule on same sex marriage case on Monday
A Privy Council ruling on legislation intended to halt same sex marriages is set to be delivered on Monday morning – more than a year after the case was heard.
The decision on the case, between the Attorney-General of Bermuda and Rod Ferguson and others, will be read out at 7am local time on the Privy Council website.
Adrian Hartnett-Beasley, of OutBermuda, said the organisation was glad to hear that a decision was coming “whatever the outcome”.
The case began in 2018 when Mr Ferguson launched a civil case against the Attorney-General over the Domestic Partnership Act, which included a clause intended to prevent future same-sex marriages.
Mr Ferguson’s lawsuit was joined with a case brought by OutBermuda and other litigants, represented by Rod Attride-Stirling, a Bermudian barrister.
The Government lost the Ferguson/OutBermuda case in June 2018, when the Chief Justice ruled that the section which banned same-sex marriage breached the Bermuda Constitution.
The Government appealed and the case went to the Court of Appeal in November 2018.
The three-judge panel ruled that the section in the DPA was included for a religious purpose, which was barred under Bermuda’s secular Constitution.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the legal challenge and the Government sought permission to apply to the Privy Council – the highest court of appeal for Bermuda – in December 2018.
Lord Pannick, QC, who appeared for OutBermuda and four other litigants before the Privy Council, argued that same-sex marriage would not stop people who believed that only opposite-gender couples should be allowed to marry from the practice of their faith.
He told the board of UK judges: “The wish of some people to live in a society in which other people are not allowed to marry because they are a same-sex couple is not a reasonable aim.”
Jonathan Crow, QC, who represented the Attorney-General of Bermuda, said earlier that the legislated ban was not discriminatory.
He argued that legislation could have a religious purpose – provided it did not have a negative effect on the rights of the public.
The five-member board of judges reserved judgment.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has confirmed that at least $411,627 from the public purse has been spent on outside lawyers and law firms involved in the case.
That figure does not include the cost of having government lawyers in the Attorney-General’s Chambers work extensively on the case.
It also doesn’t take into account any future costs that may have to be paid for the opposing side if the Government loses the long-running case.
A Pati request for the totals had been made, but Gitanjali Gutierrez, the Information Commissioner, found that the Attorney-General’s Chambers was justified to deny access to records as they related to the public authority’s statutory functions – an excluded category.