Bermuda plans to ban same-sex marriage, mere months after Supreme Court approval

Despite its wide acceptance in the U.S., same-sex marriage is legal in only few nations worldwide

Published December 11, 2017 12:37PM (EST)


Bermuda, the small island nation located in the Atlantic Ocean, is trying to become the first country to re-ban same-sex marriage after its House of Assembly passed a bill on Saturday to overrule an earlier court ruling which had permitted the practice.

The new law, titled the Domestic Partnerships Act, would allow both heterosexual and homosexual couples to file for household status to obtain the same rights. It would replace a May ruling by the country's Supreme Court, which granted marriage rights to same-sex couples but did not give them the full legal rights that opposite-sex couples have.

Since the court ruling, Bermudian politics has been deeply divided over the issue. Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown argued in a speech that the bill was a compromise between people who wanted no legal recognition for same-sex couples and those who wanted full marriage equality.

“This Government took leadership on the issue and has decided to bring forward this Bill, which will ensure that same-sex couples will have a raft of legal benefits – more so than they currently have under the existing legislation,” he said.

The bill did not pass unanimously, however. House member Trevor Moniz was one of several who opposed it. “To take that right away from them is something that is abhorrent to me,” he said, according to the local Royal Gazette newspaper.

While same-sex marriage enjoys wide support within the United States, it is comparatively rare worldwide. According to the Pew Research Center, just 26 countries have legalized the practice. Overwhelmingly, the nations which have marriage equality are concentrated in Europe as well as in the Americas. No Asian countries have enacted it, and South Africa is the only nation on its continent to have done so.

The bill has not yet become law, however. Bermuda, which is still partially ruled by the United Kingdom, has a Senate which must also approve legislation before it can be enacted.

Usually the Senate rubber stamps Assembly bills, but not always. In July of last year, the Senate rejected an Assembly-passed bill which formally defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.

This legislation would also have to be approved by Bermuda's British-appointed governor, John Rankin. He has yet to comment on the issue of same-sex marriage. Last year, before the Supreme Court ruling, Rankin said he supported civil unions as a means of ending "any discrimination in this area."

Unsurprisingly, as Pew's David Masci and Drew DeSilver write, the legality of same-sex marriage is strongly correlated with societal opinion on whether homosexuality should be accepted. South Africa is the only country with marriage equality where a majority of survey respondents have said that homosexuality should not be accepted.

By Matthew Sheffield

Matthew Sheffield is a national correspondent for The Young Turks. He is also the host of the podcast "Theory of Change." You can follow him on Twitter.

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Anti-lgbt Laws Bermuda Gay Marriage Lgbt Same-sex Marriage