Growing trend of marriage equality in West


British overseas territories

Anguilla: no civil unions or same-sex marriage.

Bermuda: civil union legislation tabled, referendum planned on same-sex marriage. One of only two territories to have a higher age of consent for homosexuals (18, as opposed to 16 for heterosexuals).

British Virgin Islands: no civil unions or same-sex marriage.

Cayman Islands: no plans for same-sex marriage but a change to immigration regulations being drawn up for same-sex partners. The other territory to have a different age of consent for homosexuals (18). No anti-discrimination laws regarding sexual orientation.

Falkland Islands: a legal amendment to allow same-sex marriage is being drawn up.

Gibraltar: civil unions allowed, same-sex marriage under consideration.

Montserrat: no civil unions or same-sex marriage.

Pitcairn Islands: passed a law in 2015 allowing same-sex marriage.

Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha: no civil unions or same-sex marriage.

Turks and Caicos Islands: no civil unions or same-sex marriage.

Where in the world can a same-sex couple get married? Not in Bermuda — yet. But elsewhere in plenty of places in the West, same-sex marriage is already on the statute books and many other countries are actively considering whether to include it.

Last year alone, four nations approved same-sex marriage, including the United States of America, where the Supreme Court delivered a landmark ruling in favour of marriage equality.

The White House was lit up in rainbow colours and president Barack Obama said: “This ruling will strengthen all of our communities by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land.”

The first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage was the Netherlands in 2000, with Belgium not far behind in 2003.

Eleven other countries in Europe have since followed suit, with Ireland changing the law last year after a referendum.

In doing so, it became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote, with 62.1 per cent of voters saying yes and 37.9 per cent saying no, in a turnout of 60.5 per cent.

Our map clearly shows how governments in the east and west differ on the topic. Same-sex marriage is legal across North America, in some jurisdictions in Mexico and in much of South America (Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina).

By contrast, not a single country in Asia has changed the law to allow same-sex marriage and only one has done so in Africa: South Africa, back in 2006.

The ruling African National Congress supported that change, with Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula telling the National Assembly: “When we attained our democracy we sought to distinguish ourselves from an unjust, painful past by declaring that never again shall it be that any South African would be discriminated against on the basis of colour, creed, culture and sex.”

Same-sex marriage is not just in the spotlight in Bermuda, where a referendum bill is likely to be debated in parliament today and where government has said it will amend the law to ban same-sex marriage and could table civil union legislation.

A federal US judge ruled just this week that Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States, could retain its ban on same-sex marriage despite last year’s Supreme Court decision.

In the Cayman Islands, which like Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory, the issue led two government MPs to defect to the opposition benches in January, so opposed were they to any moves towards recognition of same sex partnerships.

The United Kingdom enacted same-sex marriage legislation in 2014 and has said it expects its territories to meet the same high standards as the UK Government with regards to human rights.

An FCO spokeswoman told The Royal Gazette this week: “The UK Government has assisted successive Bermuda administrations in improving anti-discrimination measures including the attachment of an official from the UK Government Equalities Office in 2012 to work on updating the Human Rights Act.

“Other technical assistance has been given from time to time on anti-discrimination measures, including compliance with the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights).”

The Pitcairn Islands passed a law allowing same-sex marriage last year, while the Falkland Islands is drawing up a legal amendment to allow same-sex marriage to take place. Gibraltar allows civil unions and is considering same-sex marriage.

In December, the topic arose in the United Kingdom Parliament when Crispin Blunt, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, asked James Duddridge, under-secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, what discussions he’d had with the territories about continuing to improve anti-discrimination measures for LGBT citizens.

Mr Duddridge replied: “Progress has been made. [In] the Cayman Islands ... only this week their Premier reported to their parliament on their recognising equal marriage, which is a great step forward.

“Small territories have legislative constraints on time and it may take them longer to get all the legislation through that they would want.

“However, this is a priority for a number of territories and we will do all we can to support them in bringing forward modern legislation that we would like to see around the world so that everybody, regardless of their sexuality, is treated equally.”

For graphics detailing where same-sex marriage is legal and same-sex rights in the Caribbean, click on the links under “Related Media”

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Published Mar 11, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated Mar 11, 2016 at 7:29 am)

Growing trend of marriage equality in West

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