Bill to replace gay marriage is unveiled
New legislation that would replace same-sex marriage with a domestic partnership arrangement has been unveiled by the Bermuda Government.
Yesterday, in a statement, Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, said he was seeking the public's feedback on the draft Domestic Partnership Bill.
“This topic has been a prolonged matter of great division in our country,” Mr Brown said.
“The purpose of this public consultation period is to gain feedback from the public on the current draft Bill regarding domestic partnerships and answer any questions that anyone might have. Stakeholder groups have already been informed as we seek to move forward in a collaborative way.”
The government statement added: “The Bill will essentially replace same-sex marriage with a domestic partnership arrangement which can be entered into by both same-sex and heterosexual couples.
“It should be noted that all same-sex couples who are already married will not have this designation taken away from them.”
The new Progressive Labour Party draft Bill comes six months after a Supreme Court ruling paved the way for same-sex couples to marry in Bermuda. Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, embarked on their fight for equal rights after the Registrar-General rejected their application to marry.
The couple were represented in court by lawyer Mark Pettingill who last night said: “Clearly an existing right could not be removed but there are other issues of law that will need to be sensibly considered.”
Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche argued that the Human Rights Act took primacy in protecting their right to marry and won a landmark legal ruling in May.
Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons said: “The common law definition of marriage, that marriage is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, and its reflection in the Marriage Act section 24 and the Matrimonial Causes Act section 15 (c) are inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation.
“On the facts of this case the applicants were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation when the Registrar refused to process their notice of intended marriage.
“Same-sex couples denied access to marriage laws and entry into the institution of marriage have been denied what the Human Rights Commission terms a “basket of goods”, that is rights of a spouse contained in numerous enactments of Parliament.”
The PLP's election platform stated that the party accepted that same-sex couples should have similar legal benefits as heterosexual couples, save for marriage, and that the party would introduce legislation to achieve this aim.
In August Mr Brown reiterated the PLP's stance on the issue.
“Our position is that same-sex couples should have all the legal rights of heterosexual couples, save for marriage,” Mr Brown said.
The draft Bill will be posted on the Government website gov.bm for the public to view as well as on the Government's Facebook Page
Members of the public can send comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
There will be a two week public consultation period, which began yesterday and will end on November 15.
The ministry will host two town hall meetings on the Bill. The first will take place on November 8 at 5.30pm at the BIU Building; and the other on November 9 at 5.30pm at the St Paul AME Church Hall.
•To see the draft Bill, click on the PDF under “Related Media”