A court has legalised same-sex marriage in Bermuda for the second time after bans, in the latest flip-flop victory for gay couples on the island.
The Court of Appeal on Friday (November 23) upheld the right to marry in the British Overseas Territory, which has been stuck in a vicious cycle over same-sex marriage since a May 2017 Supreme Court ruling that gave same-sex couples the right to marry.
Rather than accept the ruling, the Bermudian government passed a fresh law that controversially re-banned same-sex weddings — only for the Supreme Court to strike down that law as well in June 2018.
In its ruling on Friday, the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal from the Bermudian government, finding that the fresh law was “passed for a mainly religious purpose,” and upheld the decision to strike it down.
The court declined a government request to stay the decision pending further action, meaning gay couples are once again able to marry in Bermuda.
Bermuda LGBT+ activists celebrate victory
In a statement to Bernews the gay Bermudians who fought the government on the issue, Maryellen Jackson and Roderick Ferguson, said: “We are grateful for the court’s decision, and its recognition of the significance of marriage in supporting and protecting our families.
“Today’s ruling makes history for Bermuda and our nation’s dedication to equality and fairness for all citizens.”
Zakiya Johnson Lord, OutBermuda
“Equality under the law is every Bermudian’s birthright. Bermuda’s LGBTQ community is strong and proud. When our voices join together, we will be heard, and we will continue to make progress.”
Zakiya Johnson Lord of LGBT group OutBermuda said in a statement: “Today’s ruling makes history for Bermuda and our nation’s dedication to equality and fairness for all citizens, including our LGBTQ families.
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“We believe there is nothing more fundamental than the right to marry the one we love.
“Ms Jackson and Mr Ferguson are Bermudians who personally took a brave public stand to fight for the right to marry for all gay and lesbian Bermudians and we are proud to work with them and the countless others who have made today a reality.”
Bermuda was already the first country to re-ban same-sex marriage after legalising it. It is now also the first country to re-legalise same-sex marriage.
Bermuda’s marriage laws impacted cruise ship industry
The island has a population of just 65,000, but many cruise ships are domiciled in Bermuda for financial reasons, and the shifting status of same-sex marriage has impacted their ability to conduct gay weddings at sea.
Cruise ship giant Carnival previously announced funding and support for Bermudian LGBT+ groups, after the re-banning of same-sex marriage forced the company to close some wedding packages to gay couples.
Carnival had said the “active engagement” in its registered home port was important to the company, adding: “Carnival Corporation believes our employees, guests and the public at large deserve equal dignity and respect.”
It said at the time: “Our engagement includes providing [LGBT+ group] OUTBermuda with financial, civic and public relations support, as well as involvement by our company.
“While we always abide by the laws of the countries we sail to and from, we believe travel and tourism brings people and cultures together in powerful ways.
“As a result, we believe it is important to stand by the LGBTQ community in Bermuda and its many allies to oppose any actions that restrict travel and tourism.”