Bermuda Abolishes Marriage Equality After Just Six Months

“It is a shame that it has come to this," says Winston Godwin, whose case brought the freedom to marry to the country.

Just six months after the Bermuda Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the country has abolished marriage equality.

The Bermuda Parliament passed the Domestic Partnerships Act of 2017 by a margin of 24 to 10 on Friday. It undoes a May 2017 ruling that gave gay couples the freedom to marry, replacing it with civil unions.

“This Bill seeks to make provision for the formalization and registration of a relationship between adult couples, to be known as a ’domestic partnership,’ to clarify the law relating to marriage, and to make connected and related provision.”

MP Lawrence Scott told the Royal Gazette that currently gay couples “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.”

It’s believed Bermuda is the first country in the world to re-ban marriage equality after enacting it. Activists obviously see this as a step backwards.

“This is a human rights issue. We are taking away marriage equality rights from the LGBTQ community,” Shadow Economic Development Minister Grant Gibbons told Jamaican Observer.

In May, the Supreme Court ruled that Winston Godwin and fiancé Greg DeRoche had a right to marry under the country’s Human Rights Act.

“On the facts, the applicants were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation when the Registrar refused to process their notice of intended marriage,” wrote Judge Charles Etta-Simmons in his ruling.

Couples who married before Friday’s ruling will not be impacted by the new law.

“It is a shame that it has come to this after such a long fought battle,” said Godwin, “I’m truly sorry that this is the climate and reality we face.” He called on supporters to remember “what we have been able to achieve together.

The legacy of European colonists and Christian missionaries—as well as the involvement of contemporary evangelical groups from the U.S.—has meant persecution, discrimination and violence for LGBT Bermudans: In June 2016, Bermudans voted two-to-one against marriage equality in a non-binding public referendum.

After the May ruling Carnival Cruises, which is based in the North Atlantic nation, announced same-sex wedding packages would be available on its Princess, P&O, and Cunard Line cruises. The first ceremony was slated to take place in January 2018 aboard the Azura in the Caribbean. As the license was to be issued by the Bermudan government, its not clear if they will still be offering the ceremonies.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery