Bermuda has become the first territory to legalise and subsequently repeal marriage equality.
The governer of the British Overseas Territory signed a bill which reverses the right for LGBT+ couples to marry.
The new legislation was granted with the permission of Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary.
This is despite a Supreme Court ruling last year which authorised same sex-marriage.
In December 2017, legislation banning same-sex marriage passed Bermuda’s Senate and House of Assembly by wide margins following a referendum in which the majority of voters opposed same-sex marriage.
Bermuda’s minister of home affairs, Walter Brown, said this updated legislation would “strike a fair balance” between the socially conservative island while also complying with European court rulings in regard to the recognition and protection of same-sex couples.
It was Brown’s Progressive Labour party that proposed the repeal.
“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 Brown.
LGBT+ civil rights groups have deemed the repeal as shameful and that domestic partnerships amounted to second-class status.
“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 Human Rights Campaign Global.
“I feel enormously disappointed,” said Joe Gibbons, a 64-year-old married gay Bermudian. “This is not equality, and the British government has obviously just said, ‘This is not our fight.’”
The initial introduction of marriage equality was celebrated by Bermuda’s small gay community, however the majority of citizens on the socially conservative island were outraged.
After signing the assent, Rankin declined to comment beyond a brief statement: “After careful consideration in line with my responsibilities under the constitution, I have today given assent to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017.”
The Bermudian lawyer who won the May 2017 marriage equality case, Mark Pentingill told Bernews:
“Obviously we are deeply disappointed by this outcome which many people will regard as a step backwards in human rights.
“I do believe it was given due consideration by the Governor given the amount of time that it took in reaching a final decision.
“Having said that I remain of the view that there is a constitutional position which in my assessment may warrant a legal challenge and I can indicate that this is a matter which is currently under consideration.”
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