SSM Legal Case Continues In Supreme Court

May 22, 2018

[Written by Don Burgess]

“I don’t want to be separate but equal; I want to be equal!”

Those are the words of Maryellen Jackson whose testimony was read in Supreme Court advocating that same-sex couples should be allowed to be married.

The case is being brought in response to the legislation of Parliament last year that took away the right of gay couples to get married in Bermuda, and instead gave them  rights through the Domestic Partnership Act [DPA], which is scheduled to go into effect on June 1st.

Roderick Ferguson has filed legal action, as has OUTBermuda and Ms Jackson, and as both actions deal with the same matter, the court has ordered that the two actions be heard together.

Ms Jackson’s affidavit was read into the court proceedings by her lawyer Rod Attride-Stirling.

In it she also stated living in a society that does not accept differences isn’t easy, but she was determined to live her life on her own terms. She said that living her life in a way that many people called “an abomination” and “of the devil” was difficult.

Because of that, she had to have two lives – one for the public, and the other private in which she could be her true self with her female partner. She hoped that one day she would be able to marry.

“In 2017, that dream came true. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. I cried tears of joy as I realised I now had the opportunity in life to live out my dream.”

“I cherish the concept of marriage. This is a part of my belief system.”

Chief Justice Dr Ian Kawaley asked if she invites the court to look at this evidence narrowly supporting or finding that there has been so substantial an interference with her personal beliefs the court would be justified on this evidence alone in striking down this legislation or rather is she asking the court to say this evidence, in the broad sense, that there are numerous people who are similar to her, in that their beliefs are being interfered with. If whether at looked at broadly, does taking away same-sex marriage rights  interfere in a general sense with freedom of conscience rights?

The lawyer said that Ms Jackson “isn’t alone in having this view. The evidence is there is a significant group who are affected by this.”

He then read more from Ms Jackson’s affidavit saying she doesn’t want a domestic partnership as she already has a domestic partner and she doesn’t want a common-law wife.

“I don’t want just some legal benefits. I want marriage. I deserve true equality,” she said. “I don’t want to be a second-class equal; I just want to be equal. I want marriage; I don’t want some cheap imitation of marriage. I don’t want to be separate but equal; I want to be equal!”

Mr Attride-Stirling also read in a statement from the Carnival Corporation in support of same-sex marriages in Bermuda. The corporation owns multiples cruise companies, including Princess Cruise Lines, whose registration is in Bermuda.

Carnival’s position is they did not wish to cut and run and abandon the gay community in Bermuda an they decided to help fight this law, the court heard.

Earlier, Mr Attride-Stirling read in previous press statements from MPs Wayne Furbert and Walton Brown, arguing that the DPA was legislated was trying to institute a religious viewpoint on the rest of the community.

The barrister said Mr Furbert wanted to take away the right of gay people to be married and wanted to enshrine in legislation a religious definition of marriage. He then read into testimony parts of a Bernews interview conducted by Jeremy Deacon with Mr Furbert about the MPs Private Members Bill.

The case continues.

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