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First gay marriage takes place in Bermuda


First gay marriage takes place in Bermuda

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HAMILTON, Bermuda – Bermuda’s first gay marriage has taken place, but it was not immediately known who the couple are. 

News of the gay wedding broke on Thursday during a Supreme Court hearing.

The wedding was referred to during the hearing before Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons regarding her landmark ruling on May 5 which opened the door to same-sex marriage in the island.

The hearing is to determine the exact terms of the judge’s order declaring that gay marriage is legal in Bermuda.

It was originally also set down as a costs hearing although that issue will now be dealt with at a later date. 

Justice Simmons asked counsel if a same-sex marriage had taken place in Bermuda yet. She was told by two lawyers at the hearing that the first marriage took place on Wednesday. No other details were immediately available.

Despite the judge’s ruling last month giving the green light to gay marriage on the island, the window may soon close if an opposition Progressive Labour Party (PLP) MP has his way. 

Wayne Furbert, who was once leader of the now defunct United Bermuda Party before switching to the PLP, is to make a fresh attempt in parliament to block same-sex marriages in Bermuda. 

Furbert has tabled a private member’s bill in the House of Assembly. 

The draft legislation, which can be debated and voted on by MPs after July 8 and does not need Senate approval, would restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Gay people have had the right to marry one another in Bermuda since Justice Simmons’ ruling last month, with at least one couple already giving notice of their intended nuptials.

But the successful passage of Furbert’s bill could remove that right, meaning only same-sex marriages conducted here before the bill was enacted into law would be valid. 

The same bill passed in the House last summer by 20 votes to ten, but was then blocked by the Upper Chamber, after six senators voted against it, including Furbert’s PLP colleague Kim Wilkerson.

Furbert re-tabled his bill last month and, as per the Bermuda constitution, there is no need this time for Senate approval before it goes to the Governor for assent.

A referendum last year, in which there was less than a 50 per cent turnout, resulted in voters overwhelmingly rejecting same-sex marriages and same-sex civil unions by a wide margin.

A new opinion poll published this week by the Royal Gazette newspaper showed Bermudians marginally against same-sex marriage.

The poll — with a five per cent plus or minus margin of error — was carried out between May 15 and 19, a few days after Justice Simmons ruled in favour of a bid by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche to marry on the island.

In the event, the gay couple married in Toronto on May 20, saying that their legal battle had been about forcing overdue change in Bermuda. (CMC)