Bermuda Revokes Gay Marriage Law That Went Into Effect In 2017

On Wednesday, February, 7, Bermuda officially banned same-sex marriage, which had been legal in the island nation since May 2017 following a supreme court ruling there. In the new legislation passed by both chambers of the Bermuda parliament and signed by the U.K.-appointed governor, domestic partnerships for all couples, whether gay or straight, will be recognized instead.

LGBTQ community advocates have denounced the new law that reverses the right for gay couples to marry after it was on the books for about nine months in Bermuda, suggesting that it renders those in domestic partnerships into second-class citizens. Civil rights and marriage equality activists also noted that "it is unprecedented for a jurisdiction to take away the legal right to marriage after it has been granted," Time explained. The eight same-sex couples who were married while the law was in effect will, however, be permitted to retain that status moving forward.

With a population of about 70,000, the British overseas territory of Bermuda is located about 700 miles east of North Carolina. Prior to the above-referenced court decision, a June 23, 2016, referendum in Bermuda rejected gay marriage and civil unions by a 60-percent margin. Since the overall voter turnout was less than 50 percent, though, the vote was considered non-binding, Breitbart News recalled.

Reacting to Bermuda's first-in-the-world rollback of gay marriage, Walton Brown, the island's minister of Home Affairs, provided this analysis, the BBC reported.

"The [Domestic Partnership Act] is intended to strike a fair balance between two currently irreconcilable groups in Bermuda, by restating that marriage must be between a male and a female while at the same time recognizing and protecting the rights of same-sex couples."
British Prime Minister Theresa May commented that she was "seriously disappointed" with the gay marriage repeal but declined to intervene because the law was duly enacted by Bermuda's elected representatives in the ruling Progressive Labor Party. Gay marriage is legal in Britain, Scotland, and Wales, but not in Northern Ireland.

Shortly after Gov. John Rankin signed the measure into law, the hashtag #BoycottBermuda began trending on Twitter. According to CNBC, Bermuda may encounter some choppy waters insofar as its tourism industry is concerned, in part because cruise lines registered in Bermuda will no longer be allowed to host same-sex marriage ceremonies. Tourists pour about $430 million into Bermuda's economy every year, but same-sex couples and others who support marriage equality may change their travel plans from now on in protest over the change in the law. Perhaps as no surprise, the Bermuda Tourism Authority unsuccessfully lobbied the parliament to leave the same-sex marriage law in place.

Same-sex marriage became a reality in all 50 U.S. states in June 2015 with the landmark Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Previously over the years, about 30 states had banned gay marriage through the constitutional amendment process, but those measures were rendered inoperative by the high court ruling.