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A question about common-law partnerships

Dear Sir,

I have a legal question about common-law marriage or unions in Bermuda, based on the recent ruling by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley. Canada and many countries recognise common-law marriages and lawyers routinely craft common-law documents between persons.

A typical document will begin with the words “George Timble and Mary Rouge intend to live together as husband and wife, etc.” The document will continue on and have what would be a terms of engagement or cohabitation agreement.

The legal question I put forward is, would not the spouse of a Bermudian under such arrangement or similar have the right to work or to seek employment just as in the case awarded by Mr Justice Kawaley to the gay common-law partnership? If a heterosexual couple do not have the same protection under Bermuda law, would that be discrimination based on sexual orientation? Can a person with legal background give and opinion on that matter?

The core question is, are all common-law relationships to have equal status under Bermuda law?

KHALID WASI

Ian Kawaley, Chief Justice