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Same-sex couples ‘must have legal framework’

Regardless of how the public vote in the referendum next week, the Bermuda Government will be obliged to find some form of legal foundation to accommodate same-sex couples who are in permanent relationships.

Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General, said last night that the One Bermuda Alliance had tabled its consultation Bill on civil unions because it was felt that the majority of Bermudians would favour the partnerships over outright same-sex marriage.

“We were trying to show the courts we were doing our level best to meet the requirements of the law as enunciated by the Chief Justice in the Bermuda Bred case,” Mr Moniz told a gathering at the Bermuda College, where home affairs minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin was presenting information on the June 23 referendum.

That ruling by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley found that non-Bermudian same-sex partners of Bermudians who are in permanent relationships are entitled to live and work in Bermuda free of immigration control.

Asked if this meant that civil unions were unavoidable, Mr Moniz said: “It's not inevitable. There must be some sort of legal framework for same-sex couples in same-sex relationships. If we don't provide a framework, then the courts will step in. In each case as they come up, if same-sex couples are treated differently from heterosexual couples, then the courts will strike them down as discriminatory. It might be inheritance or owning land, or any one of hundreds of different ways.”

If the Bermudian public vote no on both same-sex marriage and civil unions, the Attorney-General and the Cabinet would face a quandary, given amendments two years ago to the Human Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation. “Do we want to go backwards by trying to undo the amendment to the Human Rights Act, or be in breach of the European Convention? Is there some other form of legal framework that might be acceptable if civil union is not acceptable? We will have a difficult decision to make.”

If the Government failed to settle on some arrangement for same-sex couples, Mr Moniz said the court challenges that would follow would amount to “a death by a thousand cuts”.

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Attorney-General Trevor Moniz (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published June 17, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 17, 2016 at 12:09 pm)

Same-sex couples ‘must have legal framework’

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