Bermudian lawyer goes to court to challenge gay marriage reversal

HAMILTON (Reuters) - A Bermudian lawyer has filed a legal motion with the island’s Supreme Court to undo a new law banning same-sex marriage, according to a court document seen on Monday.

On Feb. 7, Bermuda’s Governor John Rankin in the wealthy British overseas island of 60,000 people approved the Domestic Partnership Act (DPA), which was a rare reversal of a trend among Western countries of legalizing same-sex marriage. The government says domestic partnerships may be formed under the law that will offer equal rights as marriage.

Mark Pettingill, the lawyer challenging the act, is representing Roderick Ferguson, a Bermudian who lives in the United States. Ferguson is not currently trying to wed, but wants to be able to avail himself of gay marriage rights in the future, Pettingill said.

“My client has the right to the constitutional protection of the law and that has been infringed as a result of the DPA,” Pettingill said on Monday. He seeks to render the DPA void for contradicting Bermuda’s constitution, which guarantees freedom from discrimination.

The motion was filed on Feb. 16 against the Attorney General, whose lawyers serve as legal advisers to the government.

A government spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the motion.

Pettingill, a former attorney general, won Bermuda’s marriage equality case in May 2017 in the Supreme Court, only to see it reversed nine months later.

The Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality was celebrated by the Atlantic island’s small gay community, but also outraged many, leading to protests outside parliament.

Bermuda was first settled in 1609 and is the oldest British colony, having rejected independence in a 1995 referendum.

Rights groups and some British MPs have criticized the bill, saying the United Kingdom should have blocked the legislation.

Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Anthony Esposito and Grant McCool