Bermuda to become first territory to legalise - and then ban - same-sex marriage in just seven months
The Senate in Bermuda gave final legislative approval on Wednesday to a measure that would end same-sex marriage in the British island territory and allow only domestic partnerships. Senators approved the Domestic Partnership Act by an 8-3 vote. The House of Assembly approved it 24-10 on Friday. It must now be signed by the governor before it becomes law in the Atlantic ocean territory. A Supreme Court ruling in May made same-sex marriages legal in Bermuda amid opposition on the socially conservative island. The ruling Progressive Labor Party took up the matter after winning power in the July election. Opponents of the legislation said that it would be unprecedented to strip the right to same-sex marriage after it had been granted in a jurisdiction and that global reaction could hurt the tourism industry. They said it was discriminatory because same-sex couples would have only the option of domestic partnerships while opposite-sex couples could choose between marriage or a domestic partnership. LGBT marriage countries "This bill in its simplest forms strips away rights from human beings," opposition Sen. Nandi Outerbridge said before the vote. Rights groups expressed outrage over the bill, with some blaming the church groups. "This is a national embarrassment, turning Bermuda -- who bills itself as a 21st century place to do business -- into a theocracy," said Jordan Sousa of the island's Gay Straight Alliance. Jeffrey Baron, shadow minister for national security, told AFP after the House vote on Friday that if ultimately approved, the bill would cast a stain on Bermuda and its legislature as the first "ever to re-ban same-sex marriages." Ruling party Sen. Crystal Casesar defended the bill, saying it would codify the rights of domestic partners, something the Supreme Court did not do in its ruling and acknowledges the reality of public opinion on the island. "Society largely does not support same-sex marriage nor is it prepared to accept it at this time," she said. Lawrence Scott, an MP from the governing Progressive Labor Party, said the bill would grant same-sex couples an array of legal rights more than they enjoyed before May. "They have the benefits and just not the name marriage. The benefits are what they really want," the Royal Gazette website quoted him as saying. The new legislation would not strip those couples who have married since then of their legal status. Bermuda conducted a referendum on same-sex marriage in June 2016. A majority of those voting opposed both same-sex marriages and same-sex civil unions, but since fewer than half of eligible voters took part, the results were deemed invalid. Then in May of this year, Judge Charles-Etta Simmons of the island's Supreme Court ruled in a case involving a local couple that "same-sex couples are entitled to be married" under Bermuda law.