SSM Judgment Scheduled For Wednesday

June 4, 2018

According to this week’s court schedule, the judgment in the “Roderick Ferguson et al. v The Attorney General” matter is due to be delivered on Wednesday [June 6], with the case having challenged the laws regarding same sex marriage.

Same sex marriage was initially legalised in Bermuda following a Supreme Court decision in May 2017, with Greg DeRoche and Winston Godwin successfully challenging the law, with the court ruling in their favour, saying that “common law discriminates against same-sex couples by excluding them from marriage.”

The court ruling paved the way for same sex couples to get married, however did not automatically extend all the same legal benefits opposite sex couples received to same-sex couples. The Domestic Partnership Act then passed in Bermuda’s legislature last year which created domestic partnerships, with benefits, that can be entered into by both same-sex and heterosexual couples, however the law also served to restrict marriage as being between a man and woman, in effect ‘overturning’ the court ruling.

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The Domestic Partnerships Act took effect on June 1st, so as it stands now, same sex couples cannot get married in Bermuda.

Earlier this year, lawyer Mark Pettingill — who represented Greg DeRoche and Winston Godwin in 2017 — filed a motion on behalf of a client challenging the constitutional aspects of the Domestic Partnership Act.

At that time, Mr Pettingill told Bernews that Roderick Ferguson, a Bermudian man living in the United States, filed this lawsuit because “the right to have a same-sex marriage has been taken away.” The former Attorney-General maintained that as Bermuda created legislation that removes it, the Domestic Partnership Act is unconstitutional.

Following that, OUTBermuda and Maryellen Jackson also filed legal action in the Supreme Court seeking an order declaring that provisions that “have the effect of revoking same-sex marriage” are in contravention of the Bermuda Constitution, with lawyer Rod Attride-Stirling acting on their behalf, as both lawsuits deal with the same matter, the court ordered that the two actions be heard together.

The case was heard in the Supreme Court in front of Chief Justice Dr Ian Kawaley, who is scheduled to deliver the judgment this Wednesday.

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