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A timeline of the battle for and against same-sex marriage

Timeline of same sex marriage in Bermuda (Infographic by Sharneil Paynter)

June 2013: The Human Rights Act 1981 is amended to outlaw discrimination due to sexual orientation. Wayne Furbert, then an Opposition MP, tries unsuccessfully to remove same-sex marriage from the new provision.

October 2015: Preserve Marriage launches a petition against same-sex marriage. It has attracted almost 9,300 signatures.

February 2016: The One Bermuda Alliance Government tables a Civil Union Bill in the House of Assembly and announces a referendum on same-sex marriage and civil unions.

March 2016: Mr Furbert introduces a Private Member’s Bill to remove same-sex marriage from the Human Rights Act.

June 2016: The Government holds the referendum. Voters overwhelmingly rejected same-sex marriage and civil unions. Turnout was 46.89 per cent of the electorate, however, which meant that it was below the 50 per cent required to make the referendum valid. The final tallies showed that 69 per cent of those who voted opposed same-sex marriage and 63 per cent voted against civil unions.

July 2016: The Furbert Bill is passed by the House of Assembly but rejected by the Senate. The Civil Union Bill is dropped.

August 2016: Civil proceedings are launched in the Supreme Court by Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche to establish that same-sex marriage is lawful in Bermuda.

May 2017: The judgment in the case finds that the Human Rights Act 1981, which since 2013 had prohibited discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry. The decision is not appealed and same-sex marriages can now take place.

July 2017: The Progressive Labour Party is elected with a massive majority, having promised in its manifesto to make same-sex marriage unlawful.

December 2017: Government passes the Domestic Partnership Act, which recognises same-sex marriages that have already taken place but prohibits more, and introduces domestic partnerships for gay and straight couples.

February 2018: The Act receives the Governor’s assent. Roderick Ferguson launches legal action against the DPA clause that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The lawsuit is later joined by LGBTQ rights charity OutBermuda.

May 2018: Chief Justice Ian Kawaley rules the DPA is against the Constitution but stays the effect of the decision to allow the Government time to launch an appeal. Same-sex marriage is no longer allowed.

June 2018: The Domestic Partnership Act comes into effect.

November 2018: The Court of Appeal dismisses the Government’s appeal against the Chief Justice’s ruling. The appeal court finds that the clause in the DPA that prohibited same-sex marriage was included for a religious purpose, which is not allowed under Bermuda’s secular constitution. Judges refuse a stay, allowing same-sex marriages to proceed again.

December 2018: The Government seeks permission to appeal the judgment at the Privy Council in London, the highest court of appeal for Bermuda.

May 2019: Leave to appeal is granted.

February 2021: Arguments in support of and opposing same-sex marriage are heard by Privy Council judges in Britain. Jonathan Crow, QC, representing the Attorney-General of Bermuda, argued that a legislated ban on same-sex marriage could have a religious purpose, provided it does not have a negative effect on the rights of the public. Lord Pannick QC, for supporters of same-sex marriage, argued that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional because it gave preference to one religious belief over others.

February 2022: The Government says that $411,627 has been spent so far on outside lawyers and law firms in the battle to ban same-sex marriage.

March 2022: The Privy Council is split four to one, with the majority siding with the Attorney-General to uphold the ban on same-sex marriage.

• Parts of this timeline were taken from the November 2018 Court of Appeal ruling

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Published March 15, 2022 at 7:52 am (Updated March 15, 2022 at 7:52 am)

A timeline of the battle for and against same-sex marriage

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