Bermuda Becomes First Nation to Repeal Marriage Equality

Frederick Owens
February 9, 2018

Bermuda has become the first country in the world to repeal legislation which allowed same-sex couples to marry.

Bermuda Governor John Rankin said he gave the Domestic Partnership Act 2017 his assent after "careful consideration in line with my responsibilities under the Constitution".

Ty Cobb, director of the Human Rights Campaign Global, called the repeal of the same-sex marriage law "shameful" and supporters will fight to get the law back on the books.

The island's supreme court ruled previous year that such marriages must be recognized, though the measure approved by the legislature in December allows only domestic partnerships instead of same-sex marriage.

Walton Brown, minister of home affairs, said the legislation reflects the resistance to same-sex marriage from the socially conservative island, while complying with European court rulings that recognize and protect same-sex partners in the territory.

Same-sex couples previously married under Bermuda law will continue to be recognized as being married and overseas same-sex marriages taking place before and during the transitional period will be recognized as marriages in Bermuda, Rankin said.

LGBTQ civil rights groups have argued domestic partnerships amount to a second-class status and say it's unprecedented for a jurisdiction to take away the legal right to marry after it has been approved.

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Brown issued a statement indicating that the new domestic partnerships would have "equivalent" rights to married heterosexual couples, including the right to make medical decisions on behalf of one's partner.

The island nation and North Atlantic British Overseas Territory's Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage a year ago with a landmark ruling, after it deemed a ban on such a union a discriminatory violation of human rights.

Mr Pettingill - a former Attorney-General who represented Winston and Greg Godwin-DeRoche in their case which resulted in the Bermuda Supreme Court making same sex marriage legal in May 2017 - was speaking after the Governor gave assent to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017. LGBTQ Bermudans earned the right to marry in May 2017, when a judge ruled that Bermuda's Registrar General could not reject a gay couple's application to marry.

The government is refusing to overturn a decision by Bermuda to ban same-sex weddings which will also mean gay couples of all nationalities can not marry on many cruise liners. "Bermuda will continue to live up to its well-earned reputation as a friendly and welcoming place, where all visitors, including LGBT visitors, will continue to enjoy our beauty, our warm hospitality and inclusive culture".

Some opposition politicians say the British government should have intervened to prevent the change, which they say discriminates. When it was passed, he said it would severely undermine U.K.'s efforts to advance LGBT rights. A 64-year-old married gay Bermudian Joe Gibbons shared his distress to a leading journal The Guardian.

Rankin was appointed by the United Kingdom.

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