Bermuda Officially Rescinds Marriage Equality

Gov. John Rankin signed a bill today replacing same-sex marriages with domestic partnerships.

The governor of Bermuda has signed a law officially rescinding same-sex marriage, which only came to the country in May via a court ruling.

The Domestic Partnerships Act of 2017 passed parliament in December by a margin of 24 to 10, though there had been questions about whether Gov. John Rankin would sign it, given that Bermuda is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, where equal marriage is recognized.

On Wednesday Rankin insisted the new domestic partnerships confer rights that are “equivalent” to those of heterosexual couples. But others see it as clear discrimination. “This is a human rights issue. We are taking away marriage equality rights from the LGBTQ community,” Shadow Economic Development Minister Grant Gibbons told the Jamaican Observer in December.

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

“It is a shame that it has come to this after such a long fought battle,” said Godwin of the repeal, “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.”

Chris Bryant, former Overseas Territories Minister in the U.K.’s says the ban will damage Britain’s international reputation.

“I think Britain will harm its reputation internationally for leading on such issues as this when we basically say, ’Yes, in one of our overseas territories, which has a strong link to the United Kingdom and has the same queen, we are prepared to sanction getting rid of same-sex marriage,” Bryant, who is openly gay, told the Royal Gazette. “I think the only legitimate position for a government that supports same-sex marriage is to say to those territories it must stand there as it does here in the United Kingdom.”

The Foreign Office said that it was “disappointed” by the new law, but that “this is a matter for the Bermuda Government, acting within the terms of the Bermuda Constitution and in accordance with international law.”

Bermuda is the first country in the world to re-ban marriage equality. The handful of same-sex marriages conducted while it was legal will still be recognized.

“LGBTQ couples and their children in Bermuda should know that the global community of LGBTQ people and allies will stand with them in rectifying this unjust and hurtful news,” said GLAAD’s Sarah Kate Ellis. “Love can never be rolled back.”

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