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Early 2021 date for same-sex marriage ruling

Cautiously optimistic: lawyer Rod Attride-Stirling

Bermuda’s final day in court to settle same-sex marriage has been set for early in 2021.Rod Attride-Stirling, who represents the gay rights organisation OutBermuda along with four other litigants on the issue, said last night the case would go before the Privy Council, Britain’s top court, on February 3 and 4 next year.The matter was sent on to the final court of appeal in London after the Bermuda Government appealed a Bermuda Court of Appeal ruling that opened the way for same-sex marriages in 2018.Mr Attride-Stirling said the Privy Council case had initially been set down for December, but had to be pushed forward for “a variety of scheduling issues”.The lawyer, who has previously described himself as “cautiously optimistic” for the case’s prospects, said yesterday that even if the Privy Council overturned it, “the change in Bermudian society is already complete”.He added: “There has been a change on this issue at a fundamental level.”His remarks came as the Registry General’s office released the island’s latest numbers of marriages and domestic partnerships.Same-sex marriage has been allowed to continue while the matter has worked its way through the courts.In 2019, Bermuda recorded four same-sex marriages, as well as two same-sex unions on Bermudian-registered ships.There was also one same-sex domestic partnership, and three domestic partnerships of opposite-sex couples recorded last year.There were 386 opposite-sex marriages carried out locally, as well as 440 opposite-sex marriages logged on Bermudian-registered ships.For this year, as of August 6, there have been no same-sex domestic partnerships.But four opposite-sex couples have availed themselves of the domestic-partnership option.There have been four same-sex marriages on the island in 2020, but none recorded on Bermudian-registered ships.There were 102 opposite-sex marriages this year, plus 70 opposite-sex marriages so far on Bermudian-registered ships.Domestic partnerships have been on offer in Bermuda since 2018.But while the one-page application for marriage can be accessed easily on the Registry General’s website, the similar form for domestic partnerships is not.Responding to a query from The Royal Gazette, a spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs said the forms for Notice of Intended Domestic Partnership were “available upon request”.He added: “There was no nefarious intent to exclude them from the Government’s website and the Registry General’s office is currently working to have the Notice of Intended Domestic Partnership forms included on www.gov.bm.“In addition, a new system to enable online ordering is being created, which will incorporate these forms.”