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Is Bermuda about to reverse same-sex marriage?

Katharine Swindells December 7, 2017
gay same sex wedding

Wedding cake (Getty Images)

Although it’s barely been six months since Bermuda passed marriage equality, a bill will be voted on by MPs tomorrow, on whether to reverse the law.

It is believed that the bill will be approved without amendment, despite widespread criticism.

The Domestic Partnership Act 2017 will replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships.

It is believed that the Progressive Labour Party will not whip its 24 MPs, but allow them to make their own decision.

Melvyn Bassett, president of anti-gay marriage group Preserve Marriage said yesterday that he believed it wouldn’t matter either way, that the bill would pass whether the MPs were whipped or not.

Sources told The Royal Gazette that they thought no PLP representatives were likely to oppose the Bill.

One said the legislation would pass because there was “no dissension within the ranks.”

Winston and Greg

Same-sex marriage originally passed in Bermuda in May, after Bermudian native Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé Greg DeRoche took their case to the Supreme Court.

The Human Rights Commission and the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda have criticised the bill, calling it a “removal of rights” for gay couples.

Rod Attride-Stirling, a lawyer who worked on the same-sex marriage passage, spoke against the Domestic Partnership Act.

“There is lawful same-sex marriage in Bermuda and there have been several marriages now, so the Government is taking away a right that exists. If the Supreme Court had not already ruled on this, then the position would be very different,” he said.

“The fact that no country in the world has ever done this should give us pause. We will look foolish and oppressive, at a time when we can ill-afford this, in the light of everything going on and the spotlight shining on us for other reasons.”

Attride-Stirling also highlighted the issue that although this bill wouldn’t nullify same-sex marriages that have already happened, it wouldn’t protect same-sex marriages that happened overseas.

“That’s a serious technical problem as it is rendering lawful marriages unlawful, that is, taking away crystallised rights, which would be unconstitutional.”

Deputy Opposition leader Leah Scott said the One Bermuda Alliance opposed the Bill and that its 12 MPs would vote against it on party lines.

She said: “It won’t be a conscience vote.”

More: Bermuda, civil partnership, domestic partnership, marriage

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