Wedding relief for four gay couples

Four gay couples who are planning to marry at sea on Bermudian-registered ships will still be able to tie the knot, the Government confirmed today.

Marriage banns have been posted by the Registrar-General for the unions, with two of the ceremonies due to take place this month and a further two in January.

Parliament approved legislation last week to replace gay marriages with domestic partnerships, signalling an end to marriage equality on the island.

But a Ministry of Home Affairs spokeswoman confirmed today that the four maritime weddings for which banns have already been posted would be able to take place.

And she said the Registrar-General would still accept applications for the posting of same-sex marriage banns “until the law takes effect”.

Application forms for domestic partnerships will become available on the date the law takes effect.

As of yesterday, John Rankin, the Governor, had yet to give assent to the Bill to enable it to become law.

A Government House spokesman: “The Governor is considering the Bill in line with his responsibilities under the Constitution.”

P & O and Cunard cruise lines, both owned by Carnival Corporation & PLC and who offer weddings at sea, said they were aware of the repeal of marriage equality on the island and were “awaiting further updates regarding same-sex marriages on our ships” from the Bermuda Government.

A Cunard spokeswoman said: “Once we have confirmation on the final outcome, our priority will be to update those same-sex couples who have booked marriages.”

Gay couples have been able to marry in Bermuda and on ships registered on the island since a landmark Supreme Court ruling in May.

A total of eight couples have taken advantage of the decision, with seven weddings at the Registry-General and one private ceremony elsewhere.

British tabloid newspaper The Mail on Sunday claimed at the weekend that Mr Rankin was taking advice on requesting Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s authorisation to veto the Bill.

But the article quoted a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman, who said: “The UK Government is a proud supporter of LGBT rights and continues to support same-sex marriage.

“While the UK Government is disappointed with the implications of this Bill, this is a matter for the Bermuda Government acting within the terms of the Bermuda Constitution and in accordance with international law.”

The Domestic Partnership Act 2017 was approved by MPs on December 8 and by senators last Wednesday.

Gay and straight couples will be able to enter into domestic partnerships but same-sex weddings will no longer be allowed once it is enacted after gaining Royal Assent.

The first gay couple to wed here were Bermudian lawyer Julia Aidoo-Saltus and her partner, Judith, who spoke out against the plan to reverse the court ruling.

The most recent couple was two men, one of whom was Bermudian, who tied the knot in the Registry-General’s marriage room.

The tiny South Atlantic Ocean island of St Helena, also a British Overseas Territory, this week approved same-sex marriage by a parliamentary vote of 9-2.

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