Video: Explaining Same Sex Marriage Legalities

May 15, 2017

A gay couple can get married right now, an appeal to the legal judgment is highly unlikely to succeed, churches cannot be forced to marry gay couples, and a “significant reason” why we have same-sex marriage today is because of the Preserve Marriage group’s campaign.

These were some of the statements made by three lawyers involved in the landmark legal judgment during our most recent live interview on our Facebook page, where Bernews’ guest interviewer Jeremy Deacon sat down with Rod Attride Stirling, who represented the Human Rights Commission, and Mark Pettingill and Grant Spurling, who represented Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, to speak about the implications of the same sex marriage ruling which they successfully argued for in the Supreme Court.

If you want to listen ‘on the go’, you can also access the audio only version of this interview, and all our past interviews, in the podcast section of the Bernews app.

30-minute interview with lawyers Rod Attride Stirling, Mark Pettingill & Grant Spurling

Appeal Is Unlikely To Succeed

The Government confirmed they do not intend to appeal the judgment, and the lawyers indicated that an appeal was very unlikely to succeed anyway.

Mr Attride Stirling said, “The reason why the Government is not appealing is because any appeal is unsustainable. There is no way that they would get any lawyer, who has the most basic understanding of human rights law, to advise them that an appeal was likely to succeed.“

“The fact is that every final judgment is capable of being appealed. There’s an automatic right of appeal relation to final judgment. To say that there’s a right of appeal is one thing, but first you’d have to get a lawyer to tell you that you have a good prospect of success, and then you would appeal.“

“The Government had no prospect of succeeding on an appeal,” he added. “That’s what their internal lawyers and probably their external lawyers have told them that any appeal would be bound to fail.

“I can tell you that Preserve Marriage could not get their lawyer, I bet, to go on record and do just what I just say. Taking off my client hat, I can tell you that there is no basis upon which I could give advice that that appeal had a prospect of succeeding. I would go further, I’d say it’s bound to fail.

“I don’t think that Preserve Marriage could get a lawyer to go on record and say, I believe that this appeal has a good prospect of winning or it’s likely to succeed. I don’t think that you can get a lawyer to do that.“

Can Preserve Marriage Appeal?

Preserve Marriage has publicly called for the Government to file an appeal, and when asked if the Preserve Marriage group, has any legal recourse, Mr Attride Stirling said, “In open court, Preserve Marriage’s counsel conceded that as an intervener they had no right of appeal.

Mr Pettingill suggested the group could “put your money where your mouths are and tell Government …tell them that you’ll foot the bill for the appeal, see how far that goes.”

Can A Gay Couple Get Married Right Now?

“They could certainly well,” Mr Pettingill said. “The registry would have no legal recourse at all to say, no, we’re not doing it. They certainly could start to say we don’t have the forms ready, we would say, put a line there in that spouse or whatever. That’s an easy fix.

“The law is done,” he added.

What About An Amendment In Parliament?

MP Wayne Furbert previously attempted to bring an amendment specifying that marriage must between a man and a woman. The Bill passed in the House however failed in the Senate, and we asked about the possibility an amendment could be brought back to Parliament.

“You can let private members whatever you want to,” Mr Pettingill said, adding that given the position the Government has taken, his position as an Independent, Shawn Crockwell’s position and with members of the Opposition that “standing on the side of right when it comes to human rights,” his “assessment would be that it’s on the road to a flogging if it comes back to the House.“

Calling him his “good friend Wayne,” Mr Pettingill noted that Mr Furbert represents the “bible belt”, saying he’s ”run with the UBP. He’s won there. He’s run with PLP. He’s won there. If he runs Independent, he’d probably win there. That’s because he’s got a certain segment well locked down over many years,” Mr Pettingill said. “He probably feels the pressure more from his constituency with regard to anybody else.”

‘Bizarre’ Chance Couples Could Not Get Divorced If Amendment Were To Succeed

When asked what would happen to a gay couple if they got married and an amendment managed to get passed in Parliament, the lawyers explained that the marriages will remain legal – but they couldn’t get divorced.

Mr Attride Stirling said, “The answer for that question is that any marriage that takes place say, next week, all of those marriages will be legal. If in say, 12 months time, Wayne Furbert passed his amendment and if that canceled the position, it would only cancel the position going forward.

“You’d have, say, the 100 people who got married in the next year who were legally married, but because of the way that the Amendment Act is worded. What would happen is that those people would be locked in because they would no longer …“

Grant Spurling said, “They couldn’t get divorced,” which Mr Attride Stirling agreed with saying, “They couldn’t get divorced, which is bizarre.

“They’d be now locked into something that people of opposite sex wouldn’t have, because people of opposite sex have a right to get married and a right to get divorced, but they’d be locked in.

“Wayne Furbert’s amendment is bad on several fronts,”  Mr Attride Stirling added. “Mark can speak more clearly to the political issues than I can, but I would just find it difficult to believe that a majority of MPs reading the judgment could actually now come to the conclusion that they could support Wayne Furbert’s amendment.“

Churches Cannot Be Forced To Marry People

When asked if the law can force a church into marrying a gay couple, Mr Pettingill said, “No. People need to know that. We’re not going to make you marry gay people in your church.”

Mr Pettingill said that if an attempt was made to do so, he would “be the first to roll up”, adding that Mr Attride Stirling and Mr Spurling would also be likely to defend the church.

Mr Pettingill said if someone brought a case demanding to be married at a church that is against doing so,  he would point out that they are “entitled to their fundamental religious beliefs and you can’t force your position on them.”

Mr Attride Stirling said, “That’s an important distinction, that the church’s rights have been protected and none of the church’s rights have been affected by this, because the church has a right to say we won’t marry you. What they don’t have a right to say is, you can’t get married somewhere else.“

Grant Spurling said, “I think it’s a fundamental distinction, without speaking too much of services, but we’ve heard about cake bakers in the US who’ve been found to be acting in contravention of a declared constitutional rights.

“That’s very different. That’s a provision. You’re baking cake. You can’t discriminate in that sort of way whereas religious freedom is protected. You don’t have a protection on baking your cakes in this particular way.“

Mr Pettingill said, “The Catholic church have a right to say, if you want to get married in a Catholic church you cannot do it if you are divorced. In which case, those people could run along to, say, a Protestant church, and the Catholic church doesn’t have a right to say because we won’t marry you the Protestant church can’t marry you.

“That’s where the church’s right stop. The church’s right stop outside their church doors in the same way my rights stop at my front door and your rights may commence at that point. We have to all respect each other’s rights. I think it’s possible to respect the church’s rights without all of us having to live by the church’s rules.“

“Significant Reason We Have Same-Sex Marriage Is Because Of Preserve Marriage“

“The reality is this,” Mr Attride Stirling said. “A significant reason why we have same-sex marriage today is because of Preserve Marriage.“

Mr Attride Stirling explained,  “The Government were under pressure to pass civil union legislation because under the European Convention of Human Rights, which establishes, as I said, the basic minimums, they were required to do so if they didn’t already have same-sex marriage.

“The Government looked like were minded to do it, but Preserve Marriage put up such strong opposition, not just to same-sex marriage, but also to civil unions. Preserve Marriages objected to civil unions and it was their pressure that caused the Government to stop, because of that, this case was forced on, but for Preserve Marriage’s objection to the civil union legislation the civil union legislation would have passed and this case most likely would never have come across and we wouldn’t have same-sex marriage.

“Thanks Preserve Marriage,” he added.

“As It Stands Now, We Certainly Are Big Supporters Of Preserve Marriage”

Mr Pettingill added, “I think, as it stands now, we certainly are big supporters of Preserve Marriage, all marriages. They might want to think about changing their name, because as the law stands, marriage includes same-sex marriage.

“Really, the propagating of Preserve Marriage, I think we’re all for it, but it covers now, same-sex marriage.”

21st Century Human Rights

Mr Pettingill said, “I think, we submit it, write the final chapter in human rights. The 21st century was about it. This is where we are. We made the point, very strongly and pointedly, if I may say so, that the world has changed. We went through that kind of history.

“We are moved over the centuries to really becoming more human, becoming more caring, becoming more loving. We have evolved in a very significant way. The rights of gays and the recognition that people are born gay and that is the way that it is in nature.

“We have progressed and this now has become, here in the last few years, a 21st century issue,” he said. “That’s a recognition of the human evolution, of the human development, I believe, of love and happiness. That’s the right way to go.“

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Comments (57)

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  1. wahoo says:

    So Preserve Marriage are the reason we are where we are. Thanks Preserve Marriage.

  2. I heart 441 says:

    I’m a tab confused, didn’t we recently have a referendum on same sex marriage in which the majority voted against it?

    • Jeremy Deacon says:

      It was nulled because there was a less than fifty percent turnout

    • jo co says:

      No, a majority of Bermuda’s voting population didn’t vote in the referendum on same-sex marriage. Therefore the question posed in the referendum went unanswered as per the legislation.

    • blankman says:

      Not quite – a majority of those who voted voted against SSM. However, the overall turnout was so small that the “nays” didn’t come close to being a majority.

      But that’s beside the point – human rights should never be subject to the popular vote.

  3. Auslander says:

    Just brilliant all round.

  4. bdaboy says:

    “I’m a tab confused,”

    A simple google search would have eliminated your confusion.

    ” didn’t we recently have a referendum on same sex marriage ”


    ” in which the majority voted against it?”

    No, the number of voters was well under the majority, resulting in a non binding referendum.
    Not enough people actually cared enough about the issue to vote.

  5. De Truth says:

    Mr Pettingil please stop!!! There is no proof that people are born gay!!! No scientists are asking 5 year olds if they are gay. There is no GAY GENE!!! People are giving in to the lustful behavior of thinking they are attracted to the same sex!!! You also said ““That’s a recognition of the human evolution”. There is no other animal on the planet that seeks out the same sex and partners with that same sex animal to live in love. The nature of things in the world is a male and female to come together and produce offspring. The same sex individuals cannot do this unless defying the laws of nature or finding someone to carry the child to term. Quite clearly this is about money as stated in Mr. Pettingil’s comments about someone footing the bill. Truly sad when you have a majority of a country that doesn’t want same sex marriage here and still the powers that be defy the majority!!! A truly sad day this is.

    • bdaboy says:

      “There is no proof that people are born gay!!! ”

      yes there is…it’s the same ‘proof’ that people are born straight….I know, this will fly over your head.

      “There is no GAY GENE!!!”

      Do you have proof? How about a link to the peer-reviewed extensive research you must have done to make this statement?

      “There is no other animal on the planet that seeks out the same sex and partners with that same sex animal to live in love”

      Yes, there is…you should really educate yourself, instead of embarrassing yourself like this.

      “Truly sad when you have a majority of a country that doesn’t want same sex marriage here and still the powers that be defy the majority!!!”

      Yes, that’s what we said about abolishing slavery and allowing interracial marriage. You want to change these laws as well?

      • Portia says:

        “There is no GAY GENE!!!” Do you have proof?

        Well, yes, considering that science has been able to map our genes and now has a full catalogue of those genes, and none of them have been found to be correlated to sexuality, than, yes, I’d say that is proof.

        • Mike Hind says:

          “A full catalogue”? Really?
          You really do just make stuff up and believe it’s true, don’t you?

        • bdaboy says:

          “Well, yes, considering that science has been able to map our genes and now has a full catalogue of those genes,”

          Since you’re incorrect in your fantastical beliefs, the answer is no, you haven’t a clue.

    • Mike Hind says:

      There’s so much wrong in this!
      “The nature of things in the world is a male and female to come together and produce offspring.”
      Um. No. We’re talking about marriage. There is no requirement or stipulation to procreate when it comes to marriage. You are wrong. This point is moot.
      This whole post is nothing but already-debunked nonsense attempting to debase and defame a section of society. This sort of hate is bad for Bermuda. Please stop.

    • blankman says:

      Sorry but nothing you’ve said is true.

      There are over 500 species of animals that engage in homosexual behaviours. There is only one that is homophobic.

      Ignoring the fact that human rights should never be subject to the tyranny of the majority (i.e., popular opinion) how do you know that the majority of the country doesn’t want same sex marriage? If you’re referring to the referendum the turnout was sufficiently small that the “nays” were hardly a majority. Fact is, a majority of people either didn’t consider the issue important enough to bother voting or actually voted in favour.

      As for your statement about the “powers that be” are defying the majority, you really should take the time to learn what happened. The court ruled on the law – that’s not the “powers that be” – that’s the law. Or are you saying that laws shouldn’t be enforced if you don’t like them?

      • Mike Hind says:

        There’s on,y one species that gets married…

        • XYZ says:

          There is only 1 species that needs a license to get married.
          There is only 1 species that gets divorced.
          Many species are monogamous

        • blankman says:

          There are many species that mate for life.

          • Mike Hind says:

            Mate for life does not equal marry.
            Marriage, as you know, is a legal construct, affording rights and privileges to people. No other species does that.

            It’s unnatural.

      • Portia says:

        “There are over 500 species of animals that engage in homosexual behaviours.”

        Those same species also engage in practices such as incest, cannibalism and infanticide. Should we follow suit there, too?

        In any case, those scientists are only ASSUMING that those species are engaging in homosexual behavior, but other scientists argue that what is really occurring is an act of dominance, not sexual love or attraction. After all, did anyone ever ASK those animals if they are gay, or whether they feel attraction to the same sex? Then it’s all speculation. And isn’t it wrong to just assume things about others? At the end of day, those animals seek an opposite sex partner to procreate with.

        • Mike Hind says:

          No. You don’t get to do that. YOUR side brought up the “it’s unnatural ” argument. You don’t get to dismiss the rebuttal like that. It’s unfair and dishonest.

          As for your “scientific” arguments? They’re simply not true. You’re making things up again.

        • bdaboy says:

          “Those same species also engage in practices such as incest, cannibalism and infanticide. Should we follow suit there, too?”

          Some cultures already do…why aren’t you railing against them? Because they’re your culture? Aren’t you the spawn of incest?

  6. Rocky5 says:

    I got it, Preserve Marriage now includes same-sex marriages and churches do NOT have to perform SSMs. Wayne Furbert has support on both sides of the HOA – could still get his ant-LGBT bill through & stop SSMs but those already married could NOT get divorced. !

    • Say Whaat says:

      But why would they want to get divorced in the first place? All this fighting for marriage rights and then they want to get divorced? What was the point?
      Why get married in the first place? Are they JLo? Marriage is supposed to be forever, that’s why vows say til death do us part.

      • Cow Polly says:

        I’m hoping your comment is ‘tongue in cheek’ but on the off chance that it isn’t, what makes gay marriage so special that it won’t have the same challenges as heterosexual marriage? Believe it or not gay people fall out of love just as much as non-gay people.

        • Say Whaat says:

          If I fight to get married, I sure well will be in it forever. It doesn’t make sense to fight for something that’s temporary.

          Maybe the image of marriage, something that is so easy to get out of, should be changed.

  7. seriously? says:

    Hahahahahaha. Thanks Preserve Marriage!

  8. jim says:

    bermuda is finished,

    • HarryTuttle says:

      I think we’re just getting started.

    • Mike Hind says:


      And why do you anti-equality bigots feel the need to post these things and not back them up?
      You always run away after posting this hate.

  9. Bermuda Mom says:

    I don’t believe everything that comes out of Mr. Pettingill’s mouth.

    • Say Whaat says:

      Me either. He’s the one who said we won’t be going for gay marriage. Man with issues, putting it nicely.

  10. Cow Polly says:

    I’m heterosexual so this doesn’t affect me one iota. However, I can only imagine what it must feel like for my gay Bermudian friends to know that they are free to marry their loved ones and not be denied access to them should they become sick and need hospital care.
    Thank you Preserve Marriage for giving them the right to full marriage and not some jumped up second class band aid called Civil Union.
    As for Bad Samaritan Wayne – well he’ll have questions to answer at his pearly gates when he gets there. Isn’t Christianity all about loving one’s neighbor?

    • Say Whaat says:

      Just because I love you doesn’t mean I agree with everything you do.

      Pretty sure that Min. Furbert will be fine at the pearly gates. What about you?

      • There is a massive difference between disagreeing with someone and actively working to deny equal access to services, to them, because of that disagreement. You can dislike homosexuals and disagree with their taste in partners but you have no right to decide for them, or anyone else, what legally available services they should or should not have based on that lack of approval. By all means, don’t attend their weddings or invite them to your house for tea but don’t tell me I can’t, because you don’t approve. That is what Mr.Furbert and his supporters want to do; actively discriminate and try to force the rest of us to be complicit in doing the same. And if heaven thinks this is ideal behavior then I shall be happy not to be there.

      • blankman says:

        So how exactly does this affect you? Is someone insisting that you marry someone of the same sex? Preventing you from marrying someone of the opposite sex? Somehow impacting your marriage? (The only way this can affect your marriage is if one of you is gay.)

      • Mike Hind says:

        Just because you disagree with what people do doesn’t mean you should get to tell society to deny them rights and have any sort of negative effect on their lives and happiness.

  11. rodney smith says:

    The fight is not over yet . There are other areas of appeal . While the law is passed , it is not good for Bermuda . The results of which would not be seen for years to come .And while some religious persons might chose to go to the Registrar , the gay person in their “Home Church ,” cannot get married where they wish .That must be illegal , but you can’t force churches , not yet . A test case would move the post markers. We are soon to see a battle over the human rights of an individual and the rights of the church. While the church governs their doctrines , the Government , controls the Law. But there are laws that control everyone , even the church .And if the church is seen to run afoul of the law, a court would willingly settle the dispute .Hate speech, public place ,the child act ,the employment act , etc, etc. Somewhere the church has run afoul of these laws , and a smart lawyer is going to find a foot hold , to get the church into court . This is just the beginning of a long battle. See you in court.

    • Just the Tip says:

      What are you going on about?? No one is forcing churches to marry any one against their doctrine, this is a fact. It is a fact that Christians and other religions are protected by the Human Rights act.

    • Mike Hind says:

      Why is it not good for Bermuda?

      You know what ISNT good for Bermuda? The lies you keep trying to spread.
      “Somewhere the church has run afoul of these laws…”

      No. it hasn’t. That is a lie. You cannot show a single example of this happening.

      Please stop with the lies and the hate. Please try to show some integrity and honesty.

    • blankman says:

      So tell us why this isn’t good for Bermuda?

    • Common Sense says:

      Rodney is clearly very concerned about churches marrying gay couples, but he fails to understand that now same sex couples will be able to marry in the Regsitrar’s office it will not be long before some of our church denominations will decide for THEMSELVES to follow suit. It’s called “Freedom of religion”. No need to force anyone to do anything here. Watch this pace.

      • bdaboy says:

        “Rodney is clearly very concerned about churches marrying gay couples,”

        Despite there being no basis in reality for his fears.
        Apparently, rodney is too stupid to understand the separation of church and state.

  12. bdaboy says:

    “While the law is passed , it is not good for Bermuda”

    You’re confused. Your bigotry and hatred is not good for Bermuda.

    Your ignorance is astounding…this has been explained to you many times, but you refuse to acknowledge it and continue posting lies.
    You’re not a good person, you’re perpetuating hatred because of your own agenda.
    Your hatred of all things gay actually reveals you to be a raging homosexual.
    Admit it to yourself and get on with life, you’ll be much happier.

  13. Mike Hind says:

    And notice that, yet again, there is no response from these bigots. They just hit and run. No integrity, no honesty. Just hate and lies.

    • rodney smith says:

      Mike, Let’s meet for tea and croissants . No one is running . People have other things to do. It sounds like you’ve been left at the altar yet again .

      • Mike Hind says:

        Sorry, Mr. Smith, that is simply untrue. You, yourself, regularly run away from simple questions whose answers, if you were to answer them honestly, would expose your position as wrong. You do it pretty much every time.

        As for “being left at the altar”, first off, I’ve never been left at the altar, secondly, what do you mean by “again”?

        Or is this just yet another fabrication on your part, used as a pathetic personal attack?

        As for coffee? No thanks. I choose to not break bread with liars and bigots if I can help it.

      • Mike Hind says:

        It’s telling that you decided to post this and not something explaining how marriage equality will harm Bermuda.

        This is my point. You run away from the simplest of questions.

        • rodney smith says:

          Mike , It’s tea, not coffee.

          • Mike Hind says:

            See? Like this. Simple questions. No answer. Just cowardly evasions.

            • Wow says:

              YOU ARE A TROLL!!!!!!

              • Mike Hind says:

                Nope. A troll would be someone who just ups and posts a personal attack and false accusation against someone they disagree with, while hiding like a coward behind a fake name.

                Oh, wait. That’s YOU!
                Perfect example!

  14. Janice says:

    I am not gay but now I wanna be gay

    • Mike Hind says:


      • Janice says:

        Just kidding why would one choose to be gay that’s a hard road to travel

  15. Rasta says:

    Those Preserve Marriage bigots must be vexed.

    • Wow says:

      We all know you’re not a REAL rasta now lolol