Less than a year after legalizing same-sex marriage, Bermuda is reversing course, implementing a law that says same-sex couples can enter domestic partnerships but not marry.
The British territory is believed to be the first jurisdiction in the world to reverse course on same-sex marriage after permitting it, The Guardian writes.
In May 2017, Bermuda’s Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. Within months, the island’s legislature passed a bill overturning that court decision, which was signed into law on Wednesday, The Associated Press reports:
“Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown said the legislation signed by Gov. John Rankin seeks to balance opposition to same-sex marriage on the socially conservative island while complying with European court rulings that ensure recognition of and protection for same-sex couples in the territory.
“Bermuda’s Senate and House of Assembly passed the legislation by wide margins in December, and a majority of voters opposed 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 recognizing and protecting the rights of same-sex couples,’ Brown said.”
“About a half-dozen” same-sex couples married during the window that it was legal, and those marriages will continue to be recognized under the new law, the wire service reports.
About 63,000 people live in Bermuda, according to the island’s government.
The British government could have blocked the territory from enacting the law, the BBC reports, but chose not to. Foreign Minister Harriet Baldwin said that blocking legislation should only happen in “exceptional circumstances,” the British broadcaster reports:
“Prime Minister Theresa May said she was ‘seriously disappointed’ about the decision to abolish same-sex marriage.
“But she added: ‘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.’
“MPs on all sides criticised the decision and called it a backward step. …
“The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Landale said: ‘The problem, as many MPs pointed out, is that Britain may now find it harder to promote LGBT rights around the world when it has failed to do so in one of its own overseas territories.’ ”
The policy change will affect the cruise companies Cunard and P&O cruises, which register their ships in Bermuda and will no longer be able to offer same-sex marriages onboard, the BBC writes.
In a statement, the president of the LGBT advocacy group GLAAD called the news “unjust and hurtful.”
“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,” GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said.
The Guardian notes that before Bermuda’s high court legalized same-sex marriage last year, proposals for same-sex marriage and same-sex civil unions were rejected by voters in a referendum in 2016, although turnout was below the minimum requirement.