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OutBermuda accuses Government of stalling

The Government's delay in filing against same-sex marriage with the Privy Council in London has been branded “scandalous” by a lawyer for the side backing same-sex unions.

Rod Attride-Stirling, representing the LGBTQ rights charity OutBermuda, with four other respondents, said the Government had “purposely delayed every single step” in having the case heard by Britain's top court.

“They are trying to make it go as slowly as possible,” Mr Attride-Stirling said this week. “If they had filed notice of appeal in London in January or February, it would likely be over now, or a date would be fixed.”

He added: “As a result, some of the same-sex couples who are getting married in Bermuda are being told there's a question mark hanging over their marriage. Who would want that?”

The lawyer said that the Bermuda Government had lodged its notice of appeal with the Privy Council on July 12. Documents were filed one day short of seven months after the Government's application for leave was lodged with the Bermuda Court of Appeal last December.

Mr Attride-Stirling said the notice to the Privy Council would have been “virtually identical” to the appeal filed in here.

“It should have taken them two weeks at the most,” he said. “It's scandalous. They wanted to delay it — there's no other reason why.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Home Affairs said: “The Government's appeal is properly before the Privy Council and all deadlines have been duly complied with.

“Information and practice directions on the applicable timelines and processes can be found on the Privy Council's website.”

Reuters reported last Friday that no date had been confirmed for the hearing, which was “unlikely to be this year”, according to a Privy Council spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman said: “We have received the paperwork for this case and it is being finalised.

“It has not been listed yet so we do not know yet know when the hearing will be. The case number is JCPC 2019/0077.”

The Government's decision to take the case to the highest court of appeal for Bermuda marked a last-ditch effort in the legislative battle over same-sex marriage.

After a milestone Supreme Court ruling in May 2017 opened the way for gay couples to wed, Bermuda's Parliament countered by passing legislation that December that replaced same-sex marriages with domestic partnerships.

In June 2018, the Chief Justice of the day, Ian Kawaley, ruled in favour of a constitutional challenge against sections of the Domestic Partnership Act revoking same-sex marriage.

The Bermuda Government appealed unsuccessfully in November 2018.

Mr Attride-Stirling said his clients were “champing at the bit to proceed” and had “written 100 times” to the Government's side querying the delay in filing with the Privy Council.

The lawyer said that in the interim, Carnival Cruise Line, which has its ships registered in Bermuda, has stopped granting same-sex weddings aboard its vessels.

He said: “Carnival is worried about conducting weddings in case the Privy Council changes the law.”

Mr Attride-Stirling said he was “cautiously optimistic” because “the Bermuda judgments are massively in our favour”.

He added: “We will get a date set soon. We just do not know when the hearing will take place.”

UPDATE: This article was amended to include comments from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Privy Council, which were provided after the story was published

Rod Attride-Stirling

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Published September 05, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated September 05, 2019 at 11:05 am)

OutBermuda accuses Government of stalling

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