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Support for law change to allow gay marriage

Support for allowing same-sex marriages in Bermuda has been voiced by the chairman of the Human Rights Commission, Michael Hanson, after a petition was launched calling for the law to be changed.

The petition was started by Bermudian Tony Brannon and had attracted more than 1,800 signatures in favour of full legislative change by last night.

He said he had been spurred into action by a report that a lesbian couple had been denied the right to marry aboard a P&O cruise ship because it was registered in Bermuda, so had to adhere to the Island's laws — including those banning same-sex marriage. The Royal Gazette launched an online poll on the topic and by last night most respondents were also in favour of a law change.

Mr Hanson told The Royal Gazette: “Marriage is a concept that has been prevalent in all human cultures since before recorded history.

“If we are committed to the principle of non-discrimination and equality for all, then of course this includes the right to marry.

“The law should not restrict love or the rights that are afforded with the legality of marriage should people wish to take advantage of it.”

Attorney-General Trevor Moniz would not comment on the petition but said: “I am aware that a petition is circulating and obviously it will be a matter for discussion.

“Different parts of these issues come under different ministries to whom I provide legal advice, and that is confidential.

“There is no magical effect to a petition. If you want to gauge public opinion you would take an opinion poll if you are going to be governed by opinion, and you poll the whole community.

“You have to decide whether it is a matter that will be governed by an opinion poll or is it a matter of principle.”

Full legislative change may not be necessary for a same-sex couple to marry, if the law was challenged through the courts using provisions in the Human Rights Act.

Such provisions are designed to protect against discriminatory practices based on sexual orientation.

Bermudian businessman Joe Gibbons had to travel to Toronto to marry his partner.

He said he did not want to challenge the law prohibiting same-sex marriage in court as it would have been a long, costly and drawn-out process.

He told The Royal Gazette: “You would have hoped we could have married here with my family but as it turned out we had to go to Toronto and my family had to fly up there.

“A legal challenge might take a couple of years through the court system for Bermuda or the Government to react and people need to get on with their lives. Government should immediately amend the Immigration Act because they can do that overnight to give equal rights to the spouses of all Bermudians, not just heterosexual Bermudians — there is a clear discrimination.

“If Bermudians get married overseas they can come back and their marriages are recognised for the purposes of immigration, in other words their legal spouses can come in and live in Bermuda. That is not the case now. That would be a start.

“The next step would be for Government to amend the relevant legislation to permit civil unions to take place.

“It is an absolute disgrace that any Government in a modern society like Bermuda permits that to happen.”

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Published April 18, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated April 18, 2015 at 7:32 pm)

Support for law change to allow gay marriage

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