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May date for Domestic Partnership Act appeal

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A date has been set for a Supreme Court challenge against a new law designed to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships.

Chief Justice Ian Kawaley will hear the civil case brought by gay Bermudian Rod Ferguson, 38, against Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons on May 21 and 22.

Mr Ferguson's lawsuit, filed on February 15, claims that the new Domestic Partnership Act is unconstitutional and will subject gay people to “inhuman or degrading treatment” by denying them the right to wed.

He is seeking to have the legislation declared void by the court on the basis that it is inconsistent with his fundamental rights as set out in the Constitution.

The Domestic Partnership Act was passed by Parliament in December and given Royal Assent by John Rankin, the Governor, on February 7, but has yet to come into effect.

The law was created to halt same-sex marriages and replace them with partnership arrangements open to both gay and straight couples.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said last week that the Act would come into operation “on such day as the minister may appoint by notice published in the [Official] Gazette”.

A request for more information yesterday received no response by press time.

Former attorney-general Mark Pettingill, who is representing Mr Ferguson, said the law not yet being in force was unlikely to make any difference to whether the case could be heard.

The legislation reversed a Supreme Court decision last May that enabled gay people to wed on the island and on Bermuda-registered cruise ships around the world.

The judgment came after gay couple Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche took legal action against the Registrar-General in the wake of a refusal to post their wedding banns.

Parliament's decision to remove the right of gay people to marry sparked international criticism, including from Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, who said she was “seriously disappointed”.

Mark Pettingill, lawyer for the plaintiff (File photograph by Akil Simmons)
Rod Ferguson, the singer and standup comedian behind the drag character Rhonda Bout (Photograph by Bob Bond)

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Published February 28, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated February 28, 2018 at 10:13 am)

May date for Domestic Partnership Act appeal

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