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DPA is a ‘cheap imitation’ of marriage

Maryellen Jackson cried tears of joy in 2017 when she learnt that one day she could marry her “Miss Right” after years of discrimination.

But by the end of the year, her hopes were dashed when the Government backtracked on same-sex marriage.

Ms Jackson said she was shocked when the Domestic Partnership Act, which abolished the right for gay people to marry just seven months after it had been granted by the Supreme Court, was passed by Parliament.

Now the athlete and teacher has filed a heartfelt affirmation with the Supreme Court to explain why she joined forces with fellow gay Bermudian Rod Ferguson and campaign group OutBermuda to challenge the Attorney-General over the DPA in a case being heard this week.

Ms Jackson highlighted the difficulty of life as a young lesbian in an island plagued by homophobia. She said a domestic partnership would only be a “cheap imitation” of marriage.

She wrote: “I identified as lesbian in 1994, while in my twenties. When I did, I came to understand that this aspect of who I was was the part of me that had been missing as a young adult.

“I finally felt a sense of wholeness. I was complete. But this feeling lasted only until I understood that living in a society that does not accept differences was not going to make my coming out easy.”

But she said: “Determined to live life on my own terms, I began dating.

“When you live in a country that deems your behaviour an abomination and ‘of the devil', dating presents its own challenges. You are forced to live a double life.

“The first life is the public face: introducing my partner as my ‘friend' to some and ‘girlfriend' to others. The second life is the private face — my partner was my girlfriend, my partner.”

Ms Jackson added: “This double life created such a conflict within me and for my relationship and led to a great deal of stress for me.

“I found it very unsettling that the very same people who protested, ‘I don't care what they do behind closed doors', were the people who most complained about what we did behind closed doors.”

Ms Jackson was delighted with the Supreme Court judgment last May which paved the way for same-sex marriage.

She wrote: “In 2017, my dream came true. To say that I was ecstatic would have been an understatement.

“I cried tears of joy as I realised I now had the opportunity to have a life I wanted to live: an open, fully accepted, legally binding relationship with the woman I could choose as my wife.”

But she said: “That dream was dashed when the Government took steps to abolish the right for gays and lesbians to marry and to establish the Domestic Partnership Act.

“I grew up in Bermuda, where marriage is the norm. Like so many Bermudians, I aspired to be married one day.

“I cherish the concept of monogamous marriage and this forms an important part of my belief system.”

Ms Jackson added: “Although my beliefs are not founded on any particular religious position, they are founded on my cultural beliefs and my deeply held personal beliefs, including in particular my belief in the institution of marriage.

“I look forward to one day being married, and marriage has deep meaning to me.

“For me, the possibility of meeting Miss Right, and getting married if and when we choose, is fundamentally important.

“The Domestic Partnership Act's purported taking away of my right to marry hinders my strongly held beliefs and hinders my freedom of conscience.

“Domestic partnerships do not form part of my belief system. I don't want to have a domestic partner. If a domestic partner is a partner that you live with but are not married to then I've already had a domestic partner.”

Ms Jackson said: “Adding some legal protections to that is also not sufficient. It is like telling me to accept the legal benefits of being a common-law wife.

“I don't want just some legal benefits, I want marriage. I — we — deserve true equality.

“A domestic partnership holds no cultural or spiritual significance to me, or to anyone else I know. It is, for me and others who think like me, a cheap imitation of marriage.

“In fact, domestic partnerships are now just a symbol of the Government's decision to revoke same-sex marriage.

“They simply remind the LGBTQ community that the Government does not see us as equal and has returned us to being second-class citizens.

“I don't want to be separate but equal. I just want to be equal.”

Ms Jackson said the DPA infringed her constitutional rights to freedom from discrimination.

She added: “At present I have a right to be married, but I am not currently in a relationship and am not presently ready to be married.

“But I have that right. The Domestic Partnership Act, when it comes into effect, will take away this crystallised right.

“As a born and bred Bermudian, I deserve the right to marry the woman of my choice.”

It is The Royal Gazette's policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

Maryellen Jackson (File photograph)

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Published May 24, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated May 24, 2018 at 10:50 am)

DPA is a ‘cheap imitation’ of marriage

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