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Bermuda to abolish same-sex marriage on day of Eurovision Song Contest

Nick Duffy March 2, 2018
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MALMO, SWEDEN - MAY 15: Krista Siegfrids of Finland performs at a dress rehearsal the day before the second semi final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2013 at Malmo Arena on May 15, 2013 in Malmo, Sweden. (Photo by Ragnar Singsaas/Getty Images)

Bermuda has said it will enact a law to abolish same-sex marriage on May 12 – which is the day of the Eurovision Song Contest.

The country’s Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown today announced the plans to enact the Domestic Partnership Act, which abolishes same-sex marriage in a region less than a year after weddings began.

In place of same-sex marriage, gay couples will be restricted to a segregated form of “domestic partnership”, which is not internationally recognised as marriage.

Mr Brown said: “The Registry General will continue to accept applications for same-sex marriages until May 12, 2018.

“Any application submitted by a same-sex couple after that date must be for a domestic partnership under the new Act, not a marriage under the Marriage Act 1944 or the Maritime Marriage Act 1999.

“The Registrar certificate for marriage, issued by the Registrar-General, under either of these Acts on or before May 12, 2018, will be treated as a licence for domestic partnership if the couple do not marry on or before May 31, 2018.”

The May 12 date is coincidentally also the day of the Eurovision Song Contest grand final – which has become a celebration of identity for many in the gay community, and is often jokingly referred to as the ‘Gay World Cup’.

2013 Finnish Eurovision entrant Krista Siegfrids gets mock-married to a woman onstage during her performance (Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/Getty Images)

The unfortunate timing is the inverse of what happened in 2015, when Ireland voted for equal marriage on the day of the contest.

The Domestic Partnership Act outlawing gay weddings will come fully into effect from June 1 – which also marks the start of Pride Month.

Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, said: “The repeal of marriage equality in Bermuda is a demeaning and unnecessary strike against loving and committed LGBTQ couples in Bermuda as well as others around the world who would consider vacationing there.”

The decision to push the date to May comes after fears that the cruise ship industry, which domiciles ships in Bermuda for tax reasons, would have to scrap existing bookings for same-sex weddings.

It said: “This small walk-back by the Bermudian government to accommodate previously-planned weddings shows that pressure from the tourism industry could have tremendous power if they collectively speak out for marriage equality.”

GLAAD added: “It is now imperative for international businesses that play major roles in Bermuda’s economy, such as cruise lines and the travel industry, to make their voices heard.

“Several cruise lines that bring tourists to Bermuda not only contribute largely to Bermuda’s tourism industry and economy, but they have long histories of standing with and marketing to LGBTQ people. These brands and their business leaders should demonstrate true leadership and stand for those customers they’ve courted by helping to combat this harmful decision.”

The plan to outlaw gay weddings in the British Overseas Territory was greenlit by the UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has thus far refused to personally answer any questions on the decision.

Mr Johnson’s opponent Emily Thornberry told PinkNews the decision was “nothing short of a scandal” and that the Foreign Secretary should apologise.

Meanwhile, Bermuda is facing a fresh lawsuit over the decision.

Gay Bermudian man Rod Ferguson, 38, launched a legal challenge over the decision.

A view of Hamilton Harbour in Bermuda (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

He said: “I rejoiced when Bermuda finally established the right for same-sex couples to marry in 2017 and I had planned to exercise that right someday, but then it was taken away through the passage of the Domestic Partnerships Act.

“I strongly believe that this is a fundamental human rights issue, that everyone is entitled to the same protection of law which includes the service of a contractual marriage in Bermuda.

“When the rest of the right-thinking world has accepted the position that marriage should be available to same-sex and opposite-sex couples alike, it is very disappointing that my own country has effectively moved backwards.

“I am grateful for what so many others have done to contribute to Bermuda’s movement toward marriage equality, and I’m privileged to be in a position, with the support of family, friends, and the LGBT community, where I can now stand up and do my part.

“I have taken the decision to make this legal application to protect my rights along with the rights of so many of my fellow Bermudians.”

He is represented by Mark Pettingill of Chancery Legal law firm.

Mr Pettingill told The Royal Gazette: “The crux of it is that the protection of law that existed under the Human Rights Act as a result of the judgment in May has been removed.

“This man’s, and many other people’s, fundamental rights and protections under the law have been usurped.

“I strongly believe that this is a fundamental human rights issue, that everyone is entitled to the same protection of law which includes the service of a contractual marriage in Bermuda.

“When the rest of the right-thinking world has accepted the position that marriage should be available to same-sex and opposite-sex couples alike, it is very disappointing that my own country has effectively moved backwards.

“I am grateful for what so many others have done to contribute to Bermuda’s movement toward marriage equality, and I’m privileged to be in a position, with the support of family, friends, and the LGBT community, where I can now stand up and do my part.

“I have taken the decision to make this legal application to protect my rights along with the rights of so many of my fellow Bermudians.”

Related topics: Anti-gay, Bermuda, eurovision, eurovision song contest, Gay, Homophobia, LGBT

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