New law overturns decision by island’s Supreme Court.
Six months after Bermuda’s Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry, the island’s House of Assembly passed a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
The new law creates rights for same-sex couples in “domestic partnerships” and doesn’t invalidate same-sex marriages that have taken place since the court ruling, reported the Catholic Herald.
Voters rejected same-sex marriage by a two-to-one margin on June 23, 2016, but since the turnout was 46.89 percent of the electorate, below the 50 percent requirement, the results were declared invalid.
Supreme Court Judge Charles-Etta ruled in May of this year that “same-sex couples are entitled to be married” under Bermuda law.
The Domestic Partnership Act of 2017, which passed by a 24-to-10 margin, was introduced by Home Affairs Minister Alton Brown, who said it would provide same-sex couples with legal rights, but prevent any more same-sex marriages from taking place.
“We need to find a way in Bermuda to fully embrace greater rights for all members of the community,” Brown said.
“But the status quo will not stand. On the ground, the political reality is that if we do not lead we would have a private member’s bill tabled to outlaw same-sex marriage.
“That bill would pass because more than 18 MPs are opposed to same-sex marriage. If that bill passes same-sex couples have no rights whatsoever. This is tough for me. But I don’t shy away from tough decisions.”
Progressive Labour Party member Lawrence Scott told the Jamaica Observer that the bill gave “the LGBTQ community the benefits it has been asking for,” while keeping the “traditional definition of marriage.”
“As it stands now, they can have the name marriage but without the benefits. But after this bill passes, they have the benefits and just not the name marriage. The benefits are what they really want,” he said.
Other opposition members, including Shadow Home Affairs Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, condemned the vote.
“I don’t like to accept that it is OK for us to treat our sisters and brothers differently, whether fair or unfair, to treat them differently under similar circumstances,” she said.