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BERMUDA | Government hit with same-sex legal bill

Featured Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche’s legal costs to be paid Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche’s legal costs to be paid
HAMILTON, Bermuda, Sep 27, CMC – A Supreme Court judge has ordered the Bermuda government to pay costs to a couple who won the right for gay people to marry in the island. Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that all of Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche’s legal costs should be paid in relation to their claim that they were discriminated against under the Human Rights Act when the Registrar-General refused to post their wedding banns. The charity Preserve Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage and was an intervener on the side of the government in the civil proceedings, will not have to pay costs. Justice Simmons said the group had a “genuine interest in the case, they were invited to intervene, and the case involved quasi-constitutional issues regarding fundamental rights”. She added: “In all the circumstances, it seems to me that this is an appropriate case where costs should not be awarded against (Preserve Marriage).” The Human Rights Commission, an intervener on the side of the successful plaintiffs, did not win costs from the government on the basis that it is funded from the public purse so any cost order would “achieve no more than a paper trail of accounting procedures”. Former Attorney-General Mark Pettingill, who represented Godwin and DeRoche, told reporters: “Obviously, I am not surprised that we were awarded costs. “I do find it disappointing that Preserve Marriage, which was well funded, effectively got off the hook, but given their status as an intervener I am certainly not shocked.” Preserve Marriage has applied to appeal Justice Simmons’s landmark May 5 ruling in favour of Godwin and DeRoche, as has a separate group led by former politician Maxwell Burgess. Pettingill said: “I do not think it will be as easy for them to avoid security for costs should they endeavour to move forward with some form of appeal.” The latest ruling from the judge included the final wording of an order she was asked by the plaintiffs to make regarding the rights of gay couples to wed. In her initial judgment, Justice Simmons made a draft order declaring certain sections of the Marriage Act 1944 inoperative where it referred to “man” and “wife” and marriage as being between “one man and one woman”, as well as a section of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1974, which declared marriage void unless the “parties are not respectively male and female”. She proposed “reformulating” the Marriage Act to reflect the fact that same-sex couples were entitled to be married under that piece of legislation. Godwin and DeRoche subsequently got married in Canada. Bermudian lawyer Julia Saltus and her partner Judith Aidoo later became the first gay couple to be officially married in the island when they tied the knot in the summer. A referendum last year, in which there was less than a 50 per cent turnout, resulted in voters overwhelmingly rejecting same-sex marriages and same-sex civil unions by a wide margin. Government backbencher Wayne Furbert, who was once leader of the now defunct United Bermuda Party before switching to the Progressive Labour Party, which won July’s general election,  is to make a fresh attempt in parliament to block same-sex marriages in Bermuda. Furbert has tabled a private member’s bill in the House of Assembly. The same bill passed in the House last year by 20 votes to 10, but was then blocked by the Senate, after six senators voted against it. Furbert re-tabled his bill in May and, as per the Bermuda constitution, there is no need this time for Senate approval before it goes to the Governor for assent.
  • Countries: Bermuda