A ban imposed against same-sex marriages on cruise ships registered in Bermuda is being lifted after a successful Carnival Corporation-backed legal challenge on the island
The Supreme Court in the British Overseas Territory yesterday upheld a constitutional challenge against the Domestic Partnership Act, allowing gay couples to once again be able to marry.
Chief justice Ian Kawaley, delivering his judgment, said the sections of the Act which revoked the right to same-sex marriage were invalid because they were inconsistent with provisions in the Constitution which give the right to freedom of conscience and creed.
It came after a court battle fought by gay Bermudians Rod Ferguson and Maryellen Jackson and the gay rights charity OutBermuda, with part funding by Carnival.
The ban, which came into force in February, meant P&O Cruises, Cunard and Princess Cruises ships registered in Bermuda were prevented from conducting same-sex marriages on board.
Carnival had faced calls for a boycott due to some of its ships being registered in Bermuda.
Carnival UK president Josh Weinstein said: “We are delighted that the supreme court of Bermuda has decided that same-sex marriage is legal in Bermuda and we congratulate OutBermuda on its hard-won challenge.
“As a result of the judgment, it will also now be legal for same-sex couples to marry onboard cruise ships registered in the country.
“As a company committed to equality, inclusion and diversity, we believe everyone deserves equal dignity and respect, and we are proud to have provided our support to OutBermuda’s efforts to champion marriage equality.
“We will now be working closely with the Bermudan authorities to understand when we will be able to resume marrying same-sex couples on board.”
The Domestic Partnership Act was passed by Bermuda’s parliament in December, reversing a supreme court ruling from May last year, which enabled gay couples to marry on the island.
The new legislation came into force on Friday, revoking the right of gay couples to marry and offering them – and heterosexual couples – the option of a legally-recognised civil union.
But chief justice Kawaley’s ruling will mean gay couples can wed once more and domestic partnerships will also be available.
The DPA meant Bermuda was the only country in the world to have allowed gay marriage and then revoked that right.
Ferguson then launched a crowdsourced civil case on the grounds that his constitutional rights had been breached.
Jackson and OutBermuda, with partial funding from Carnival Corporation, later filed a separate lawsuit and asked for it to be joined with Ferguson’s case.
However, the Bermuda government has an automatic right to appeal the ruling and it will not go into effect immediately.
The chief justice agreed to an application by solicitor-general Melvyn Douglas to stay the effect of the judgment for six weeks until it decides whether to appeal, meaning the current ban on same-sex marriage will remain in place, according to Bermuda’s Royal Gazette newspaper.