Same-sex marriages held before ban deemed valid
Same-sex marriages that took place before the practice was outlawed are still valid under a Bill passed in the Senate yesterday.
The Domestic Partnership Amendment Act extends the transitional period during which same-sex marriages could be carried out legally.
In March the Privy Council in Britain ruled that a law banning marriages between gay couples in Bermuda was not unconstitutional. The ruling meant that some 20 same-sex couples who had tied the knot when it was legal to do so on the island were in a state of limbo.
Ernest Peets, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports and Government Senate Leader, said he was “very pleased” to present the Bill to senators which he said would “confirm the validity of same-sex marriages which were formalised according to the laws of Bermuda prior to the date of the Privy Council judgment”.
The Bill validates marriages that took place between May 5, 2017 and June 1, 2018, when the Domestic Partnership Act – which made same-sex marriages void – was passed.
A week later, that Act was deemed unconstitutional by the Chief Justice, a decision that was backed by the Court of Appeal. Same-sex marriages remained legal until this year’s ruling by the Privy Council.
Dr Peets said: “This cast doubt on the validity of marriages conducted in Bermuda or on Bermuda-registered ships.
“The uncertainty over the validity of same-sex marriages has potentially a widespread negative effect on the rights previously enjoyed by the couples who were married lawfully under the law as it existed at the time.
“It is therefore not tenable to leave the Act as it is without making appropriate amendments.”
Dr Peets added that amendment would “safeguard the legitimacy and acceptance of marriages between same-sex couples who were married under law as it existed at the time.“
For the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance, Robin Tucker said: “We all know that the topic of same-sex marriage has been a topic of discussion and point of contention.
“Notwithstanding one’s personal views, approximately 20 couples did get married at a time when it was legal in Bermuda for same-sex couples to wed.
“The amendment assures that same-sex couples that were married when it was lawful to do so will continue to be recognised as such and the Opposition is in support of this amendment. It is the right thing to do.”