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Bermuda Repeals Marriage Equality, Offers Domestic Partnerships Instead

Bermuda

Bermuda has repealed marriage equality.

Gov. John Rankin today signed a bill into law replacing marriage rights for same-sex couples with domestic partnerships in the archipelago, a self-governing British national territory in the Atlantic Ocean. 

“After careful consideration in line with my responsibilities under the Constitution, I have today given assent to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017,” Rankin announced, according to The Royal Gazette. The act was passed by both houses of Parliament last year.

Bermuda’s Supreme Court ruled last May that same-sex couples had the right to marry, and they began doing so soon afterward. The new law allows those who’ve married to retain that status and makes domestic partnerships available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs for Bermuda, issued a statement depicting the law as a positive move for same-sex couples. “With the introduction of the Domestic Partnership Act, Bermuda … will be among the first English-speaking Caribbean islands to introduce and pass a law that provides legal recognition to same-sex couples,” Brown said.

“The Domestic Partnership Act permits any couple (heterosexual or homosexual) to enter into a domestic partnership and gives same-sex couples rights equivalent to those enjoyed by heterosexual married couples; rights that were not guaranteed before the passage of this Act,” he continued. These include “the right to inherit in the case of no will, the right to a partner’s pension(s), access to property rights, the right to make medical decisions on behalf of one’s partner and the right to live and work in Bermuda as the domestic partner of a Bermudian,” Brown said.

“While the majority of Bermudians do not agree with same-sex marriage — as evidenced by the referendum — it is the Government’s belief that this Act addresses this position while also complying with the European Courts by ensuring that recognition and protection for same sex couples are put in place. The Act is intended to strike a fair balance between two currently irreconcilable groups in Bermuda, by restating that marriage must be between a male and a female while at the same time recognising and protecting the rights of same-sex couples.”

The referendum he mentioned took place in 2016, and 69 percent of residents voted against marriage equality and 63 percent against civil unions for same-sex couples. It was nonbinding, and Bermudian officials considered it invalid anyway because of low voter turnout — under 50 percent.

While the Bermudian government tried to put a positive spin on the new law, LGBT rights groups weren’t buying it. “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’s global arm, in a press release. “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.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, issued this statement: “As the world faces a resurgence of anti-LGBTQ activism, Bermuda just earned the shameful recognition of becoming the first national territory to strip away marriage from loving and committed LGBTQ couples. LGBTQ couples and their children in Bermuda should know that the global community of LGBTQ people and allies will stand with them in rectifying this unjust and hurtful news. Love can never be rolled back.”

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