It’s very rare that my ghast is completely flabbered, but it happened this week. I remember bac in 2013 doing a TV debate with Tory MP Nadine Dorries on the subject of equal marriage, or gay marriage as many people know it by. She was explaining why she was against it, not in principle, but because of the fact that, as she saw it, the way the legislation was drafted it would prejudice religious freedom. I was heartily sick of this argument and blurted out: “It’s quite simple, Nadine. If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry a homosexual!” To be fair to her she now says it’s the vote she most regrets in her 17 years in parliament.
There’s nothing the good Lord likes better than a sinner that repenteth, and in that regard let’s turn our attention to the decision by the Judicial Committee of the UK Privy’s Council’s decision to overturn the legalization of gay marriage in Bermuda, which is a British Overseas Territory. In addition, in a separate judgement they ruled that there was no right to same-sex marriage under the constitution of the Cayman Islands. Now, if you have never heard of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, you can be forgiven. I hadn’t either. But it is effectively the Supreme Court for British Overseas Territories and commonwealth states.
The attorney general of Bermuda appealed to the JCPC after the country’s court of appeal and supreme court heard that section 53 of the island’s Domestic Partnership Act 2018, which confines marriage to a union between a man and a woman was invalid.
Given that Same Sex Marriage has been legal in the UK since 2013, you’d think it would have been uncontroversial for the JCPC to find that it should remain legal in Bermunda. One of the four JCPC judges courageously defied the other three, but Bermuda has now regressed to the dark days of social bigotry thanks to UK judges. You couldn’t make it up.
The West Indies has never been known for their progressive views on social issues but progress has slowly been made on various islands over the last two decades. Even Sandals lifted the ban on gay couples staying in their resorts in 2004.
Independent countries have every right to make whatever laws they like, and then be held accountable for it. But if they use the judicial section of the Queen’s Privy Council, then surely that body has the obligation to interpret the law in these countries through the prism of basic human rights legislation.
Wouldn’t it now be ironic if this ended up in the European Court of Human Rights, given it’s something that affects two West Indian islands?
Surely it also places the future of the JCPC under question too.
The upshot of all this is that while previous same sex marriages remain valid in Bermuda, that’s the end of them. There will be no more new ones. What an absolute embarrassment the judges of the JCPC have proved to be. I hope if any of them have gay children or grandchildren they will express their views in no uncertain terms.