Bermuda to become first territory to restore traditional marriage

Just six months after a court ruling imposed same-sex marriages, the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda is to become the first territory in the world to restore traditional marriage, reports the Catholic Herald.

A referendum last year saw voters overwhelmingly voting against same-sex marriage, but a judge of the island’s Supreme Court later ruled that the Registrar General had to accept a gay couple’s marriage application, arguing 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.”

House of Assembly deputies passed the Domestic Partnership Act on Friday which grants a number of legal rights to same-sex couples under the title of “domestic partnerships” while defining marriage as being only between a man and a woman. The new act also does not invalidate same-sex marriages that took place after the court’s ruling.

The bill was passed after a five-hour debate, the Jamaica Observer reports. In the end, it passed 24-10.

Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown noted that the people and deputies are overwhelmingly against same-sex marriage, and thus a bill was needed to protect the rights of homosexual couples, if even without the title of “marriage.”

“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,” Brown stated.

Opposition MPs have denounced the bill as “regressive,” although Progressive Labour Party member Lawrence Scott notes that the new act grants the benefits that same-sex couples want, while protecting the traditional definition and understanding of marriage.

Jeff Baron, the Shadow Minister of National Security, said the act was a “very flawed and, frankly, shameful bill.” Instead of protecting equality, he said, it was “stripping Bermuda’s reputation naked for the world to see.”

It is not known how many gay couples have married in Bermuda since the first wedding in June.