The British Overseas Territory of Bermuda is to become the world’s first territory to restore the traditional definition of marriage just six months after the island’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of same-sex unions.
MPs in the House of Assembly passed the Domestic Partnership Act on Friday, which states that marriage is only between a man and a woman. However, it also creates raft of legal rights for same-sex couples under the title of “domestic partnerships”, and does not invalidate same-sex marriages that have already taken place since the court ruling.
Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown 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.
“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.”
Voters overwhelmingly rejected same-sex marriage in a referendum last year. However, a judge later ruled that the island’s Registrar General could not reject a same-sex couple’s application to marry. He said that the traditional definition of marriage was “inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation”.
Opposition MPs denounced the bill as “regressive”, but Lawrence Scott, a member of the ruling Progressive Labour Party, said the new legislation 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.”