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by Ismail Akwei, at 06:16 am, December 19, 2017, News

Bermuda is first country to ban same-sex marriage seven months after assent

Bermuda gay pride parade -- Photo Credit: bernews.com

The island of Bermuda, Britain’s oldest remaining colony, has backtracked on a Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in May, the first state in the world to do so.

A new bill introduced in November by the newly elected government led by Governor John Rankin replaced same-sex marriage with domestic partnership. This bill was passed by parliament and approved by the Senate on December 13 awaiting the Governor’s royal assent.

The decision has angered LGBT rights groups in Bermuda and the United Kingdom who are putting pressure on British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to veto the ban which reduces the rights of same-sex couples under domestic partnership.

The legalisation of gay marriage on May 5 after the Supreme Court ruling allowed gay couples to enjoy rights that heterosexual couples enjoyed including the publication of marriage banns by the Registrar General’s office.

“This bill effectively states that you are a second-class citizen because of who you love, and creates increased division within an already very divided country and within a minority all at once,” Winston Godwin, a gay Bermudian said in a statement cited by UK’s Daily Mail.

Godwin and his then Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, won the May 5 case that legalised gay marriage. The judge Charles-Etta Simmons had ruled that they were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation upon refusal to process their notice of intended marriage.

The UK supports same-sex marriages and Godwin argues that the ban violates the UK Human Rights Act, as Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory.

The turning point for supporters of legalisation of gay marriage in Bermuda came in 2016 when the Attorney General announced the creation of a bill to introduce civil unions, but ruled out the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

A referendum was held in June 2016 based on two proposals: “Are you in favour of same-sex marriage in Bermuda?” and “Are you in favour of same-sex civil unions in Bermuda?”

Less than 50% of Bermudians voted in the referendum rendered invalid due to the low turnout. However, 60–70% of the voters rejected both proposals.

Since the ruling which legalised same-sex marriages, six gay couples married on the island and several same-sex marriages were scheduled for January 2018 on cruise ships, reports local media Caribbean 360.

Gay couples who married on the island after the ruling will keep their status, the report added.

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