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Couple’s case may go to court next week

Eager to wed: Greg DeRoche and Winston Godwin

A bid by a Bermudian and his fiancé to become the first gay couple to wed on the island could go before the Supreme Court next week.

Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, who live in Toronto, had their application to marry rejected by the Registrar-General last week and their lawyer Mark Pettingill has now sought leave to apply for a judicial review of the decision.

Mr Pettingill, a government backbencher and former Attorney-General, has filed a writ with the Supreme Court, backed up by affidavits from Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche.

The action seeks to have a judge overturn the refusal of the Registrar-General to process the marriage application, in accordance with the Marriage Act 1944, and issue an order requiring him to do so.

“The applicants seek this order on the grounds that the Registrar-General has failed in his duties as the Registrar of Marriages,” writes Mr Pettingill in his application to the court. “The applicants seek an order of mandamus compelling the Registrar to act in accordance with the requirements [of the Marriage Act], on the grounds it is discriminatory under the Human Rights Act 1981 for the Registrar to refuse to process the application properly made to him under the Marriage Act 1944.”

Mr Pettingill adds that the couple are also seeking from the court a “declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under the Marriage Act 1944”.

Mr Godwin, 26, told The Royal Gazette this week that he and his Canadian fiancé, 29, decided to apply to marry here, after getting engaged on the island last month, to help “make a difference” and fight for equal rights for all.

In his affidavit, he states: “It is clear to me at this point that the Registrar-General has no intention of proceeding with our application to allow Greg and I to marry in Bermuda. We are approaching the court in an attempt to enforce our rights and compel the Registrar to fulfil his duties with regard to our application and allow us to exercise our right to marry.

“I strongly believe that marriage equality is a basic human right and that everyone should be allowed to marry whomever they love, regardless of their gender.

“We desire that my country of origin — ie, Bermuda — which we both love, will fully recognise the feelings we have for each other and our desire to be married, irrespective of our gender.”

It is understood that Mr Pettingill’s application may be heard next week. If leave is granted, a full hearing could follow next month.

To view the application and accompanying paperwork, click on the PDF under “Related Media” above.