Thursday, June 07, 2018

Bermuda Court Invalidates Bar On Same-Sex Marriage

In Ferguson v. Attorney General, (Bermuda Sup. Ct., June 6, 2018), a Bermuda trial court held unconstitutional Bermuda's Domestic Partnership Act 2018 that rejects recognition of same-sex marriage.  The Act was passed to reverse an earlier court decision that held existing anti-discrimination laws validated same-sex marriage. (See prior posting.)  In yesterday's decision, the court held that the effect of the Domestic Partnership Act is to limit those desiring recognition of their same-sex relationship to choosing domestic partnerships. It held that while it is not invalid as a law enacted substantially for religious purposes, it is an invalid infringement of  belief:
Prior to the DPA coming into force, same-sex couples who believed in the institution of marriage could manifest their beliefs by participating in legally recognised marriage ceremonies. Just as PMB and its members genuinely believe that same-sex marriages should not be legally recognised, the Applicants and many others equally sincerely hold opposing beliefs. It is not for secular institutions of Government, without constitutionally valid justification, to direct the way in which a citizen manifests their beliefs.
... The Applicants do not seek the right to compel persons of opposing beliefs to celebrate or enter into same-sex-marriages. They merely seek to enforce the rights of those who share their beliefs to freely manifest them in practice. Persons who passionately believe that same-sex marriages should not take place for religious or cultural reasons are entitled to have those beliefs respected and protected by law. But, in return for the law protecting their own beliefs, they cannot require the law to deprive person who believe in same-sex marriage of respect and legal protection for  their opposing beliefs.
 The court also issued a summary of its decision, and Skift reports on the decision.