The Excalibur

Bermuda – First to Repeal Gay Marriage

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Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Tyler Kieft, Staff Writer

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On February 7th, 2018 John Rankin, governor of Bermuda, approved a bill passed by Bermuda’s legislation that would repeal the court ruling in May 2017 which legalized same-sex marriage. This reversal has been claimed to have been enacted in the hopes of balancing opposition to gay marriage as well as the rights and protections of gay couples in the area.

According to Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs in Bermuda, “The 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.” Although quite hypocritical in terms of a “fair balance” between the conservative opposers and the gay couples, the government’s solution is to provide another form of partnership.

Instead of marriage licenses, the act now allows both gay or straight couples to form a domestic partnership, which is claimed to carry equivalent rights as marriage, according to the Bermudian government.

However, that’s not how members of LGBTQ activist groups are seeing it, saying that the domestic partnership essentially amounts to a second-class status in Bermuda, below those with legal marriages. They claim that the jurisdiction to repeal the legal right to marry after it’s granting in 2017 is unprecedented and immoral.

Another aspect of the situation causing controversy is the control that the British government had in the situation, as Parliament had the ability to block the territory’s passing of the law. Despite this power and the opposition to Bermuda’s decision by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, the government chose not to get involved, as they deemed the situation not an “exceptional circumstance” worth blocking.

An excuse on their behalf is said by Theresa May herself: “The bill has been democratically passed by the Parliament of Bermuda, and our relationship with the overseas territories is based on partnership and respect for their right to democratic self-government.”

Although a true statement, Harriet Baldwin, the Foreign Minister of the British government acknowledged an issue that they now faced. The promoting of LGBTQ rights will no longer be as successful in Britain due to the lack of action taken by the government to promote such rights in one of their own overseas territories.

Those who were lucky enough to marry in the time frame before its repeal (only about half a dozen couples) can keep their marital license even after this new act, meaning that people like Joe Gibbons get to remain married to their significant other.

Joe Gibbons, a 64-year-old man who was married before its repeal, spoke his mind about the issue as well, accusing the government of taking away the equality guaranteed to the minority group only 9 months earlier. “This is not equality, and the British government has obviously just said, ‘This is not our fight.’”

Sarah Kate Ellis, President of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) states, “As the world faces a resurgence of anti-LGBTQ activism, Bermuda just earned the shameful recognition of becoming the first national territory to strip away marriage from loving and committed LGBTQ couples.” In another statement Ellis calls the act “unjust and hurtful.”

In response to the protest of the action, the Government of Bermuda have tried to emphasize the effects of the partnership on their website (https://www.gov.bm/). According to the Domestic Partnership Act, benefits are similar to that of married rights, allowing the rights to inherit in the case of no will, to their partner’s pension(s), access to property rights, medical decisions on the behalf of the partner and a couple others.

To make themselves look better on the issue, Bermuda compares their territory’s rights to that of others. Comparing Bermuda to the other English-speaking Caribbean islands, it is apparent that Bermuda and the U.S. Virgin Islands are the only ones listed to have given legal benefits to same-sex couples despite the change in law.

Although these benefits to the minority groups are present, it still should be considered a concern among activists and those who believe in equal rights for people of all sexual orientations. As the first territory to repeal such rights, the tension of doing so in other places is no longer there. It wouldn’t be unlikely to see others follow in their footsteps now that they’ve broken the silence.

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