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It’s officially back to no same-sex marriages in Bermuda

February 12th, 2018 | Tags:
Bermuda has reversed marriage equality, with Governor John Rankin finally approving the Domestic Partnership Act 2017 that replaces same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships that can be entered into by both gay and heterosexual couples. Photo: Caribbean 360
CARIBBEAN 360

HAMILTON, Bermuda - Bermuda has reversed marriage equality, with Governor John Rankin finally approving the Domestic Partnership Act 2017 that replaces same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships that can be entered into by both gay and heterosexual couples.

"After careful consideration in line with my responsibilities under the Constitution, I have today given assent to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017,” he announced on Wednesday, almost two months after the Act was passed in the British Overseas Territory.

Although gay marriage is now no longer allowed in Bermuda or on Bermuda-registered cruise ships, same-sex couples already married under Bermuda law before the commencement date of the Domestic Partnership Act will maintain that status. Additionally, any overseas same-sex marriages taking place before the Act took effect will also be recognized as marriages in the island.

The Act had been awaiting the Governor’s assent since it was passed by the House of Assembly and Senate last December. The issue had been debated in Britain’s House of Commons, with some Opposition MPs suggesting that the United Kingdom government should instruct Rankin not to give assent to the legislation.

But Bermuda’s Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown, who had tabled the legislation in Parliament, was pleased that Rankin had signed off on the Act, saying that Bermuda was now among the first countries of the English speaking Caribbean to pass legislation providing legal recognition to same-sex couples.

“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 said.

“The rights now guaranteed under the Domestic Partnership Act include: the right to inherit in the case of no will, the right to a partner’s pension, 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.”

The British government has made it clear it would have preferred Bermuda to maintain marriage equality, but also said it did not feel it had any grounds to impose that on its overseas territory.

“We are obviously disappointed about the removal of same-sex marriage in Bermuda,” Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Harriett Baldwin said in the House of Commons yesterday.

However, she added, “it would not be appropriate to use the power to block legislation, which can only be used where there is a legal or constitutional basis for doing so, and even then, only in exceptional circumstances.”

But Opposition MP Chris Bryant, an openly gay former Overseas Territories Minister, described the development as “a backward step for human rights in Bermuda and in the overseas territories”.

The US-based Human Rights Campaign also issued a statement on social media after Governor Rankin gave his assent, saying that the decision “strips loving same-sex couples of the right to marry and jeopardizes Bermuda’s international reputation and economy”.

 

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