Bermuda officially becomes the first country to abolish same-sex marriage
Bermuda has officially moved to abolish same-sex marriage less than a year after bringing in a law to legalise it.
Just six months after legalising same-sex marriage, Bermuda announced it would be rolling back the law and replacing it with an alternative.
A bill to introduce domestic partnerships was approved without amendment last year and replaces same-sex marriage with the partnerships.
It today was signed into law by the Governor of Bermuda, John Rankin.
Governor Rankin has not yet commented on the decision to sign the bill into law.
But Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown has commented to say that the government there tried to find a compromise between same-sex marriage supporters and opponents.
But LGBT and human rights groups have already complained about the change to domestic partnerships.
“Governor Rankin and the Bermuda Parliament have shamefully made Bermuda the first national territory in the world to repeal marriage equality,” said Ty Cobb, director of the Human Rights Campaign.
“This decision strips loving same-sex couples of the right to marry and jeopardizes Bermuda’s international reputation and economy. Despite this deplorable action, the fight for marriage equality in Bermuda will continue until the day when every Bermudian is afforded the right to marry the person they love.”
He says the bill introduces domestic partnerships for same-sex couples which offers them “equivalent” rights to opposite=sex couples.
But Brwn also says this addressed concerns that Bermuda should be in compliance with European court rulings about equal treatment for same-sex couples
The bill to abolish same-sex marriage was last year approved with 24 votes for and 10 against in the Bermuda House.
The Domestic Partnership Act 2017 replaces same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships.
The bill will not roll back same-sex marriages that have already taken place since same-sex marriage became legal following a Supreme Court ruling.
It will also affect cruise ships which had begun offering same-sex wedding ceremonies on board since the ruling.
A cruise liner in August began offering legal same-sex weddings at sea following the May ruling.
Progressive Labour Party (PLP) backbencher Lawrence Scott said the bill gives “the LGBTQ community the benefits it has been asking for”, but maintains “the traditional definition of marriage”.
Adding: “As it stands now, they can have the name marriage but without the benefits. But after this Bill passes, they have the benefits and just not the name marriage. The benefits are what they really want.”
Shadow home affairs minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin spoke against the bill, however; saying a group should not be given rights just to have them removed again.
“I don’t like to accept that it is OK for us to treat our sisters and brothers differently, whether fair or unfair, to treat them differently under similar circumstances.”
Debate lasted for five hours before the bill was passed.
Melvyn Bassett, president of anti-gay marriage group Preserve Marriage said before the vote said that he believed it wouldn’t matter either way, that the bill would pass whether the MPs were whipped or not.
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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 had 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.”