HAMILTON, Bermuda, Friday December 15, 2017 – It now only requires Bermuda’s Governor John Rankin to assent to the Domestic Partnership Act for the British Overseas Territory to become the first country in the world to rollback gay marriage.
On Wednesday night, the 11-member Senate gave the nod to the legislation which was approved by the House of Assembly last Friday 24-10, with all five government and three independent Senators voting yes. The three opposition Senators voted against it.
“We have a bill that gives rights to the minority. It also protects the interests of the majority,” Government Senate Leader Kathy Simmons said.
The Domestic Partnership Act replaces gay marriage rights with domestic partnership arrangements that can be entered into by both gay and heterosexual couples. It would provide same-sex couples with a raft of legal rights but prevent them from getting married.
The decision reverses a High Court ruling in May this year that was made after Bermudian Winston Godwin-DeRoche and his Canadian partner Greg Godwin-DeRoche went to court to challenge the Registrar-General’s decision to reject their application to marry in Bermuda. Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that they were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, and declared that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under the Marriage Act.
Gay couples who married in the island after the ruling will keep their status.
With the law repealing marriage equality just one step away from becoming reality, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has urged Governor Rankin to veto the legislation.
“If Governor Rankin signs this measure into law, it will rip away the right of loving same-sex couples in Bermuda to marry. That’s unconscionable,” said Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global.
“With international business and tourism as its major industries, Bermuda’s people, international reputation, and economy would all be harmed by this legislation. It is crucial that Governor Rankin reject this assault on equality.”
Meantime, another piece of legislation got support from all sides in the Senate after similarly passing in the House of Assembly last Friday – the Misuse of Drugs [Decriminalization of Cannabis] Amendment Act 2017, which removes criminal sanctions for possession of under seven grammes of cannabis.