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First banns posted for same-sex couple

The Registrar-General has posted the first wedding banns in Bermuda for a same-sex couple — but those against gay marriage are still seeking to stop such unions taking place.

Julia Saltus, of Sandys, and Judith Aido, of Maryland, United States, applied last week for permission to tie the knot here, just days after a Supreme Court judge ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry on the island.

The notice of their intended marriage comes as protesters begin preparing for a demonstration outside Parliament against same-sex marriage, planned for Thursday next week.

Registrar Aubrey Pennyman complied with a May 5 order by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons and posted the banns for Ms Saltus and Ms Aido last week. A notice appeared in The Royal Gazette on Saturday (May 13).

The couple will be able to wed once the Registrar issues them with a certificate of marriage, which he can do under the Marriage Act 1944, “if no lawful impediment has been shown to his satisfaction why a certificate should not [be] issue[d]”.

In the meantime, plans are being hatched to press MPs to pass legislation to override Mrs Justice Simmons's decision and prevent same-sex marriages from taking place.

Opposition MP Wayne Furbert, who is “still considering” re-tabling an amendment Bill in the House of Assembly restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples, told this newspaper he was aware a demonstration was in the pipeline, though he would not identify the organisers.

“I think there is a group working on something,” he said yesterday.

Messages on social media suggested the protest was being organised by Preserve Marriage, which has been the most vocal group against same-sex marriage in Bermuda.

It intervened in the Supreme Court case which led to the judge's landmark ruling and campaigned before the referendum on marriage equality in June 2016.

One message asked: “Would you and some of your friends consider standing with churches on the lawn of Parliament House from 12.30pm to 1.30pm on Thursday, May 25, in support of Preserve Marriage, as the organisation seeks to amend the court's ruling to uphold gay marriage?”

The message continued: “If there are not thousands of us standing peacefully, it's likely that what the court has decided will be binding.

“Think of the ramifications of an entirely different culture. People who believe in God will be persecuted to death even.

“Who gives these people the right to confuse children. This is serious!”

Another message read: “Family — next week Thursday please meet outside of the Parliament building to show your support for marriage being between a man and a woman.

“Four thousand people are needed to make a stand for our vote to be passed.

“May 25 at 12.30pm to 1.30pm. Please invite your friends!”

Preserve Marriage is waiting to hear if its charitable status has been renewed, after it expired on April 6. It did not respond to an e-mail request for comment yesterday.

The marriage notice for Ms Saltus and Ms Aido is likely to be followed by others.

Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, the couple who brought the successful Supreme Court proceedings, are expected to resubmit their application to wed.

Bermudian Eugene O'Connor also told this newspaper he and his fiancé were preparing to file their request.

A previous landmark ruling on same-sex relationships — the Bermuda Bred decision of November 2015 — gave gay foreign partners of Bermudians the same right to reside and seek employment as spouses of Bermudians.

By the end of last month, eight letters of permission had been issued to same-sex partners by the Department of Immigration, according to a Ministry of Home Affairs spokeswoman.

The department's guidelines for issuing the letters, released in February this year, say each case will be determined on its merits.

Wayne Furbert

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Published May 17, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 17, 2017 at 12:10 pm)

First banns posted for same-sex couple

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