Bermuda Reverses Gay Marriage

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by Alexander Slavsky  •  •  December 11, 2017   

Decision comes six months after legalizing same-sex marriage

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HAMILTON, Bermuda ( - In a historic first, Bermuda is rolling back homosexual marriage.

On Friday, the House of Assembly passed the legislation without amendment to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships after a five-hour debate. The Domestic Partnership Act 2017 was approved with 24 votes for and 10 against. 

The bill will not repeal same-sex marriages that have occurred in the last six months following the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in May, after Bermudian native Winston Godwin and his partner Greg DeRoche brought their case to court. The May ruling contradicted a referendum from 2016, in which a majority voted against same-sex marriage and civil unions. 


Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled in May that the Registrar-General could not reject a gay couple's marriage application in Bermuda and that the present law defining marriage between a man and a woman was "inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation." 
Arguing against discrimination based on sexual orientation, she continued, "applicants are entitled to an Order of Mandamus compelling the Registrar to act in accordance with the requirements of the Marriage Act and a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under the Marriage Act."

Walton Brown, Home Affairs Minister 

Introduced Domestic Partnership Act 2017

Backlash ensued after the Court ruling, with popular support swelling for true marriage between a man and a woman. It led Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown to introduce the bill to replace same-sex marriage with civil unions, arguing that the law retains legal rights for gay couples.

Before the bill was passed, he said,

We need to find a way in Bermuda to fully embrace greater rights for all members of the community. 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.

During Friday's debate, the liberal Progressive Labour Party (PLP) backbencher Lawrence Scott said the new law provides the "LGBTQ community the benefits it has been asking for," but retains "the traditional definition of marriage." 

"As it stands now, they can have the name 'marriage' but without the benefits," he continued. "But after this Bill passes, they have the benefits and just not the name marriage. The benefits are what they really want."

But Shadow Home Affairs Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin does not support the bill because of the previous ruling in May and a supposed lack of justice. "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 argued.

Grant Gibbons, the Shadow Economic Development Minister, described the new law as "regressive," elaborating, "This is a human rights issue. We are taking away marriage equality rights from the LGBTQ community." Similarly, opposition leader Jeanne Atherden added: "We are taking away rights that have been granted to communities of individuals who want to start families." 

On the other hand, PLP backbencher Wayne Furbert favors the bill, even though it is limited in scope: "I support it because at the end of the day it removes the right to same-sex marriage and it tells the court that this Parliament will stand for what is right."

Waltar Roban, the Deputy Premier, also supports the measure based on the general consensus of the country — the "desire to bring some sort of stability on how the country will manage itself around this issue." 

PLP MP Scott Simmons agreed with the law, arguing that it "is the best solution. I support this bill and believe marriage should be between a man and a woman." 


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