Same-sex couples in Bermuda will have an extra three months to tie the knot.
The island nation has delayed the revocation of marriage equality until the end of May, as the Royal Gazette reported on Wednesday. Walton Brown, the home affairs minister, confirmed the delay is intended to allow LGBTQ partners who have already planned their weddings to follow through with the ceremony.
“Commencement has been delayed to allow for any same-sex marriages that have license already issued and have been scheduled to be conducted in Bermuda or on-board Bermuda-registered ships to actually take place,” he said.
After the May 31 cutoff date, same-sex couples will only be permitted to register for a domestic partnership. They will have until May 12 to apply for a marriage certificate.
In February, Bermuda became the first country to strike down marriage equality when Gov. John Rankin gave his approval to a law passed by Parliament two months earlier. The Domestic Partnership Act repealed same-sex marriages and replaced them with domestic partnerships.
Rankin claimed upon giving his approval to the legislation that the law is intended to achieve a compromise over issues surrounding LGBTQ relationship recognition.
“While the majority of Bermudians do not agree with same-sex marriageas evidenced by the referendumit is the Government’s belief that this Act addresses this position while also complying with the European Courts by ensuring that recognition and protection for same sex couples are put in place,” he said in a statement.
Same-sex marriages had been legalized in Bermuda just months prior to the passage of that bill.
In a May 2017 ruling, Judge Charles-Etta Simmons claimed the federal government had discriminated against Bermudan Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, for denying the couple’s Constitutional right to marry.
“On the facts, the applicants were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation when the Registrar refused to process their notice of intended marriage,” Simmons wrote. “The applicants are entitled to an Order of Mandamus compelling the Registrar to act in accordance with the requirements of the Marriage Act 1944 and a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under the Marriage Act 1944.”
The delay in overturning that ruling coincides with a legal challenge from 38-year-old Roderick Ferguson, a native born Bermudan based in the United States. Ferguson, a stand-up comedian and singer, claimed the Domestic Partnerships Act subjects the country’s LGBTQ population to “inhumane [and] degrading treatment.”
Chief Justice Ian Kawaley is set to hear the lawsuit before the Bermuda Supreme Court on May 21. Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons is named as the defendant in the case.