Bermuda repeals same-sex marriage legislation in world first
8 February 2018, 08:00
Bermuda has become the first country to repeal legislation allowing same-sex couples to get married.
Couples of the same gender had been allowed to tie the knot in the British Overseas Territory since May 2017.
But now a law has been enforced establishing domestic partnerships instead, a move that critics have described as an unprecedented rollback of civil rights.
Bermuda's government said the legislation signed by Governor John Rankin aims to balance opposition to same-sex marriage with European court rulings that ensure recognition and protection for same sex-couples on the island.
Parliament had overwhelmingly passed the legislation in December, and a majority of Bermudans voted against same-sex marriage in a referendum.
"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," said minister of home affairs Walton Brown.
Around half a dozen same-sex marriages that occurred between the court ruling last May and the repeal are recognised under the new law.
Now, couples in a registered domestic partnership will have "equivalent" rights to married heterosexual couples, including the right to take medical decisions on behalf of one's partner.
But LGBTQ civil rights groups said the unprecedented decision gave same-sex couples second-class status.
Ty Cobb, director of the Human Rights Campaign Global, said: "Governor Rankin and the Bermuda parliament have shamefully made Bermuda the first national territory in the world to repeal marriage equality."
The issue has also been raised in the British parliament.
While expressing the British government's "disappointment" at Bermuda's decision, Foreign Office minister Harriet Baldwin told MPs Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson decided it would "not be appropriate" to block the move.
Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokesman said: "We are seriously disappointed that the Domestic Partnership Bill removes the right for same-sex couples to marry in Bermuda.
"But that Bill has been democratically passed by the Parliament of Bermuda, and our relationship with the overseas territories is based on partnership and respect for their right to democratic self-government."
In a message on Twitter, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas said this stance was an "absolute scandal".
She added: "The FCO claims to stand for LGBT+ rights, yet in a territory THEY GOVERN they are waving through the repealing of same-sex marriage. This is a breach of human rights, and the Government should reverse their decision immediately."
Labour MP Chris Bryant told the Commons same-sex marriages at sea on some cruise ships will be outlawed as a result of the decision.
He said Cunard and P&O;'s Bermuda-registered ships will no longer be able to hold the ceremonies.
(c) Sky News 2018: Bermuda repeals same-sex marriage legislation in world first