Governor John Rankin Wednesday ended weeks of uncertainty by approving the Domestic Partnership Act 2017, which ends same-sex marriages on the island as well as on Bermuda-registered cruise ships at sea.
Rankin said in an announcement that he had given his royal assent “after careful consideration in line with my responsibilities under the constitution”.
The legislation, aimed at replacing same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships, was tabled by Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown and passed by the House of Assembly and Senate in December. It is believed Bermuda is the first country in the world to reverse marriage equality.
The approval was welcomed by Brown, who said this British Overseas Territory would “continue to live up to its well-earned reputation as a friendly and welcoming place”.
The bill was debated by the House of Commons in London last month when Labour MP Chris Bryant, a former Overseas Territories Minister who is openly gay, called on Bermuda Premier David Burt and Brown to withdraw the legislation banning same-sex marriages in Bermuda.
Bryant, who admitted that he had been told to “butt out” in some of the messages he had received, told the Commons that there had been eight same-sex marriages in Bermuda and a further four banns published.
The final tally of same-sex marriages was unclear on Wednesday.
Under the legislation, the unions would apply to both same-sex and heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples who have already tied the knot would not have the designation taken away.
It follows a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in May 2017, when Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that the island’s Registrar-General could not reject a gay couple’s application to marry in Bermuda.
The decision paved the way for same-sex marriage on the island, and the first same-sex couple made their vows at the Registry-General’s office less than a month later.
The judgment was the result of a lawsuit brought by a gay couple, Winston Godwin, a Bermudian, and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche, against the Registrar-General’s decision to refuse to post their wedding banns. The pair eventually wed in Canada.
Source: Jamaica Observer