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Government will not appeal same-sex ruling

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Court victory: Winston Godwin and fiance Greg DeRoche

The Government will not appeal last week’s landmark legal ruling on same-sex marriage.

Home affairs minister Pat Gordon-Pamplin told The Royal Gazette last night: “The Government acknowledges the Supreme Court ruling handed down on Friday last and, upon legal advice, we have determined that we will not lodge an appeal against the judgment.

“While we accept that widespread support of this very sensitive and emotive issue of marriage equality is difficult to achieve, we do, however, recognise that as a community we must be able to have open and honest conversations which help to encourage awareness, understanding, tolerance and respect for one another.

“We will abide by the decision of the judiciary and will implement the necessary steps to ensure compliance with the judgment.”

The ruling by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons enables gay couples to marry in Bermuda.

Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé Greg DeRoche brought the civil suit against the Government after the Registrar-General refused to publish their marriage banns.

They claimed his failure to do so was discrimination under the Human Rights Act and Mrs Justice Simmons agreed, ruling that the plaintiffs were entitled to a declaration that same-sex couples could be married here and an order compelling the Registrar to issue the banns.

Earlier yesterday, before the minister made her comments, this newspaper asked Mark Pettingill, the lawyer representing the couple who won the case, if an appeal was likely.

“In light of how significant this judgment is and how it accords with all of the decisions in relation to human rights internationally and in the United Kingdom and in Europe, I would be extremely surprised were the respondents to pursue an appeal,” said the former Attorney-General.

Another legal source, who did not wish to be named, pointed out that this Supreme Court case was the fourth regarding the primacy of the Human Rights Act over other laws.

The Government lost the three previous suits, two of which involved same-sex relationships, and did not appeal.

“It would be kind of odd for them to appeal this one,” said the source.

Preserve Marriage, a group opposed to same-sex marriage and civil unions, was an intervener in the most recent case. The hearing earlier this year was told that interveners do not have the right to appeal judgments.

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, Minister of Home Affairs (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)