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First domestic partnership ceremonies

Bermuda's first domestic partnerships ceremonies have taken place between both same-sex and opposite sex couples.

Civil unions became an option after legislation was enacted in June and four people have been appointed to officiate over the ceremonies.

A government spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that two women formed a domestic partnership in October, an opposite sex couple did the same earlier this month and two men were scheduled to form a domestic partnership before the end of the month.

Three of Bermuda's four domestic partnership officers were appointed last month after an advert invited members of the public to apply for the roles.

Kendaree Burgess, the executive director of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, was among them.

She said: “My preference is that marriage equality would be the way that the law would go and that has come to pass, so I'm actually more thrilled that that's available and I'm curious as to what the role of the domestic partnership officer will be now that there is marriage equality.”

Ms Burgess explained she found it “bothersome” that people might want a civil union. but not be able to have a ceremony because of a lack of officers.

She added: “I decided to put myself forward as someone who would be happy to be there to serve in that capacity.”

Ms Burgess joined others in a training and information session that included a mock ceremony, which she said was “fun and funny” but also a useful opportunity to ask questions.

Ms Burgess admitted she would be anxious conducting her first ceremony, despite experience in speaking to large audiences.

She said: “I think I will be just as nervous as the people I'm joining at my first one.

“It's one thing to conduct a speech in a business situation but to join two people together, in theory for the rest of their lives, is a very serious occasion, not one to be taken lightly.

“I think I will be nervous and probably emotional at my very first one.”

Derek Fisher, a personal trainer, was also appointed. He believed “the more experience you get with it, and the more natural you become with it, the better flow that you have”.

He aimed to make people feel at ease.

“The whole objective, where you're going to have two people that are embarking on another chapter of their lives, a happy chapter, everybody should look back on that — whether it's a domestic partnership, whether it's a traditional marriage — with a degree of fondness,” he said.

Alex Potts QC, a partner at law firm Kennedys, was also registered in the new role.

He said: “Legal qualifications are not necessary, but they do seem relevant.”

Mr Potts said he looked forward to “my invitation to the party afterwards”.

The Minister of Home Affairs approves the appointment of domestic partnership officers.

An advert for applications said: “Interested persons must be of good standing and be well versed with the contents of the Domestic Partnership Act, 2018.”

The Registrar-General and assistant Registrar-General can also officiate at domestic partnership ceremonies.

There were 14 same-sex marriages on the island from May 2017 up until the Domestic Partnership Act came into force at the start of June, as well as a further six on Bermuda-flagged ships.

The Domestic Partnership Act 2018 banned same-sex marriage and has been the subject of a long legal battle in which, most recently, the right of gay couples to wed was restored.

Banns posted in the Official Gazette showed one marriage between two men was scheduled since then.

The Court of Appeal last month dismissed the Government's claim that former chief justice Ian Kawaley was wrong to strike down parts of the Act on the grounds they were against the Constitution.

The Government later lodged notice with the Court of Appeal to ask permission to take the case to Bermuda's final court of appeal, the Privy Council in London.

Domestic partnership officer: Kendaree Burgess (File photograph)

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Published December 29, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated December 29, 2018 at 7:50 am)

First domestic partnership ceremonies

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