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Poll: majority of Bermudians support SSM

The island's final court of appeal will decide on same-sex marriage in Bermuda in February.

The news came as human rights group OutBermuda released an opinion poll that suggests 53 per cent of Bermudians are now in favour of same-sex marriage.

Adrian Hartnett-Beasley, the chairman of OutBermuda, said: “Bermudians are generally a gracious and hospitable people.

“As public attitudes show today, while they have grown increasingly comfortable with the LGBTQI+ community, their patience as taxpayers has worn thin with our government's costly opposition to marriage equality.”

Roderick Ferguson, a co-plaintiff in the Privy Council hearing, won a case against Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, which argued that the legislation that outlawed same-sex marriage was discriminatory in Supreme Court in 2018.

He said: “Over the past three years, the popular support for marriage equality and for the LGBTQ community is stronger than ever and growing here at home.

“We have won not only in the judicial arena, but in the hearts and homes of Bermudians.”

The Privy Council in London has said it would hear the arguments on same-sex marriage on February 3 and 4 next year after the case was postponed from last December.

The OutBermuda poll, carried out by pollster Global Research last month, found that support for same-sex marriage had increased by 17 percentage points on the 36 per cent in favour in 2016.

The 2016 poll was also commissioned by OutBermuda, but conducted by Research Innovations.

A total of 11 per cent in the August poll said they were still not sure.

The latest Global Research poll also found that support for same-sex marriage was higher among younger people, with 64 per cent aged between 18 and 34 in favour.

A total of 95 per cent of those surveyed said their lives had not been affected by same-sex couples marrying, living together or adopting children.

About three quarters of registered voters polled by Global Research added they were against the Government spending more money on a Privy Council appeal after it had lost a string of cases in Bermuda.

A total of 15 per cent, however, said that the Privy Council case should go ahead.

Zakiya Lord, the OutBermuda deputy chairwoman, said: “Since Bermuda's historic marriage equality case in 2017 and despite the Government's misconceived opposition, Bermuda's same-sex couples have continued to commit to each other and consecrate their vows under Bermuda law.

“It's past time as a nation that we celebrated rather than contested our marriages.

“Indeed, our survey shows that LGBTQI+ issues did not even register as an important issue to residents, of which 85 per cent highlighted ‘the economy', ‘unemployment', and ‘education'.”

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Bermuda since the 2017 decision in the case of Winston Godwin, a Bermudian, and Canadian national Greg DeRoche.

They took their case to the Supreme Court and won with the argument that the Human Rights Act trumped other legislation and protected their right to marry.

But the Government tried to remove the right with the Domestic Partnership Act 2018, which banned same-sex marriage, but allowed same-sex and straight couples to enter into civil unions.

But the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal in 2018 ruled that the domestic partnership legislation was unconstitutional and upheld equal rights to marriage.

OutBermuda and other plaintiffs Mr Ferguson, Maryellen Jackson, Gordon Campbell, the Parlour Tabernacle of the Vision Church of Bermuda and Sylvia Hayward, said that Lord David Pannick QC, a top human rights lawyer, had agreed to represent them.

OutBermuda, Mr Ferguson and the other successful plaintiffs are seeking to enforce the Court of Appeal's order against the Government for legal costs.

OutBermuda said it was estimated that the Government will have spent more than $3 million on its own legal expenses in the case by its conclusion.

The Global Research poll found that 92 per cent of people believed that gays and lesbians deserved human rights protection, against 73 per cent in 2016.

A total of 95 per cent of those surveyed said that gays and lesbians deserved civil rights protection, compared with 68 per cent four years earlier.

The survey also found that religious attitudes had softened — 72 per cent of those polled said that a church should be allowed to perform weddings between two consenting adults versus 54 per cent in 2016.

Just 3 per cent of people said they had been suffered as a result of the decision to allow same-sex couples to marry or adopt.

The margin of error for the Global Research poll is plus/minus 4.3 per cent and plus/minus 5 per cent for the Research Innovations poll.

February hearing: Rod Ferguson, centre, and Maryellen Jackson (File photograph)

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Published September 23, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated September 23, 2020 at 9:45 am)

Poll: majority of Bermudians support SSM

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