Bermuda's government fights against same-sex marriage in Court of Appeal

Linda Bogle-Mienzer is one of the few Bermudians to have married someone of the same sex.

Story highlights

  • Same-sex marriage was legalized in Bermuda, then replaced with domestic partnerships
  • Supreme Court overturned the law change
  • The government is appealing the Supreme Court decision

(CNN)Somewhere around the age of 10, Linda Bogle-Mienzer became aware of her attraction to her own sex. For more than two decades, she kept it inside, fearful of what she saw as an environment of homophobia in her family and in her home country, Bermuda.

"Internally, it was destroying me and so I decided to come out," she said. "When I was younger and struggling with my truth I couldn't look up and see anyone vocally out there that looked like me or felt like me. I believe that I needed to be that for others."
    Bogle-Mienzer, now 52 years old, is a police officer by profession and community activist by passion. She's also one of just a handful of people who have married a partner of the same sex in Bermuda.
      Their numbers may never increase, because Bermuda is the only country in the world to have first introduced, and then revoked the right for same-sex marriages.

      Divisive issue

      It's been a back-and-forth issue since 2016 for the North Atlantic island of approximately 65,000 people.
        In June of that year, then-Premier Michael Dunkley, who supports same-sex marriage, called a non-binding referendum on the issue.
        The vote was deemed invalid because less than 50% of the electorate showed up, but of the 20,800 people who did, nearly 70% voted against same-sex marriage.
        Dunkley said his intention for the referendum was to open up the conversation.
        "I thought it was appropriate to allow people to get involved in the subject," he told CNN.
        "I tried to break down the barriers of people saying, 'It's in the closet, leave it there.' That's why we had public meetings and that's why we went forward with the referendum to try and get people to talk about it," he said.

        Landmark case

        In the July of that year, with same-sex marriage still illegal, Winston Godwin, 28, and Greg DeRoche, 31, applied to marry on the island, hoping to take their case to the country's Supreme Court.
        "When I first moved back [from Canada] in 2016, I was so confused as to why people felt they need to have so much of a say in who I wanted to marry," Godwin said. "I'm not trying to marry you. I'm not trying to turn the world on its head. I'm literally just trying to marry one person."
        The Supreme Court heard their case and in May 2017 it legalized same-sex marriage.
        Greg Godwin-DeRoche (L) and Winston Godwin-DeRoche (R) fought for LGBT rights for Bermudians, but married in Canada.

        Law change

        But the socially conservative Progressive Labour Party was elected in July 2017 and pushed through a law eliminating same-sex unions and replacing them with domestic partnerships in November of that year.
        As a British Overseas Territory, Bermuda creates its own laws, but all must be endorsed by the appointed British governor. The law change was debated in the UK Parliament and eventually ratified, taking effect in June 2018.
        Premier David Burt, leader of the Progressive Labour Party, defended the government's position. "No matter what people want to say about what the referendum meant, the votes recognized that a vast majority of Bermudians were actually opposed to [same-sex marriage]," he said.
        "But the government balanced the need for same-sex couples to have legal rights and legal benefits against the construct of the thought of the public," he added. "It's still my belief that we arrived at the most applicable solution."
        Bermuda's Premier David Burt.