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Bermuda has first gay marriage

Equal rights campaigners were celebrating yesterday after it was revealed that Bermuda’s first gay wedding had taken place.

The marriage ceremony of Bermudian lawyer Julia Saltus and her fiancée, Judith Aidoo, was conducted at the Registry-General on Wednesday, followed by a reception at Café Lido, Elbow Beach, according to one guest who attended.

The nuptials came less than a month after the landmark Supreme Court ruling of May 5 which enabled gay people to marry on the island.

Former Cabinet minister Renée Webb, who tried unsuccessfully to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation more than a decade ago, told The Royal Gazette: “I attended the wedding, along with many others.”

Ms Webb earlier posted on this newspaper’s website that she had the “pleasure and honour” of being at the ceremony.

“The professional staff carried out the marriage of the brides with professionalism and a great sense of duty,” she wrote. “The Assistant Registrar is to be commended in her giving of the marriage vows.

“The sky did not fall, nor did it fall when we attended the reception on the beach at Café Lido. Bermuda is indeed a beautiful place.

“I am pleased at how kind and compassionate we Bermudians can be. I am proud of my personal journey in helping to bring about same-sex equality. Congratulations on their marriage to the beautiful women for their courage and demonstration of love. Love wins.”

Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, brought the successful civil suit against the Government, which led to Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons’s ruling last month.

Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche have since married in Toronto, making Ms Saltus and Ms Aidoo the first gay couple to take advantage of the judgment and tie the knot here.

Lawyer Mark Pettingill, who represented Mr Godwin and

Mr DeRoche, said yesterday he was “thrilled” to hear about Wednesday’s ceremony.

“I hope there will be many more to follow in short order,” said the independent MP.

Marriage equality campaigner Tony Brannon, who launched a petition to legalise same-sex marriage in 2015, said he spoke to the newlyweds as they celebrated at Café Lido and could not have been more delighted for them.

“I am so happy for this wonderful news,” he said. “I met both of them. They were so happy and they said the lady at the registry office who married them was brilliant. Renée Webb and I hugged in celebration.”

He said it was noteworthy that the wedding took place on the day Opposition MP Wayne Furbert’s bid to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples was making headlines.

“Wayne Furbert should hang his head in shame,” he said.

The Rainbow Alliance, which works to create safe spaces for LGBTQ people and their allies, said in a statement: “The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda send our congratulations to the happy couple and wish them the best in their future together.

“Many other gay Bermudian couples have been waiting decades for the chance to marry their loved one and we’re excited to see people already take advantage of this move towards equality.”

Ms Webb said the newlyweds were not interested in “being trailblazers”. She added: “They simply wanted to get married here.”

The wedding was mentioned at a Supreme Court hearing yesterday regarding the ruling of Mrs Justice Simmons.

The judge asked counsel if a same-sex marriage had taken place in Bermuda yet.

Deputy Solicitor-General Shakira Dill-Francois, for the Government, and Rod Attride-Stirling, for the HRC, said one was held on Wednesday.

Yesterday’s hearing was to determine the exact wording of the judge’s order declaring that gay marriage is legal.

Mrs Justice Simmons took submissions from Ms Dill-Francois and Grant Spurling, representing Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, as well as Mr Attride-Stirling who represented the Human Rights Commission and Delroy Duncan, for the pressure group Preserve Marriage. The latter two entities were interveners in the case.

The judge reserved judgment on the final wording of the order — and on costs — to a later date.