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Voters roundly reject same-sex marriage

Majority rules: Raynol Todd holds his thumbs down at the Heron Bay Primary polling station, where he said he voted no to same-sex marriage and civil unions (Photograph by Sideya Dill)

Bermudians overwhelmingly rejected same-sex marriages and civil unions by a greater than two-to-one margin in the referendum yesterday.

However, the total number of votes cast was 20,804, or 46.89 per cent of the electorate, which is below the 50 per cent requirement to make the referendum valid.

The final count, at around 4am today, showed that 69 per cent of those who voted, or 14,192 people, opposed same-sex marriage, with 6,514 voting in favour. That means out of 44,367 registered voters, 31.99 per cent were against, with 14.68 per cent in favour.

Meanwhile, 63 per cent voted against civil unions in the second question. That equates to 29.31 per cent of registered voters, with 17.19 per cent voting in favour.

There was some joy for the “Yes, Yes” camp in that Region 4 and Region 7 — the polling stations at Botanical Gardens and Dellwood Middle School — voted in favour of civil unions, while another two were defeated by the closest of margins.

At midnight, Tony Brannon, a campaigner for same-sex marriage, lamented the results in the island’s first referendum for 21 years.

“We’ll see where it goes — the count is not finalised yet,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a very disappointing result so far; very disappointing for equality. We tried hard.”

A total of 44,367 Bermudians were registered to vote in the referendum, however, the two questions would be deemed to be “answered” only with a voter turnout of 50 per cent or more. Representatives from Vote No Twice and Preserve Marriage were not available for comment last night as the results were being reported.

Earlier in the evening they pledged to continue their community efforts, which they said would include outreach to the LGBT community.

“We have a responsibility as a Christian community to extend love to all, and I believe that the group may be interested in developing a special ministry to the LGBT community,” Dr Melvyn Bassett, chairman of Preserve Marriage, said.

Thousands turned out to the 12 polling stations across the island during the course of the day to have their say on the issue of same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Some early risers were knocking on the doors of polling stations before 8am, while others turned up after the 8pm deadline and missed the chance to vote.

Most stations reported a steady stream of residents throughout the day, while the atmosphere was largely calm and friendly.

Yesterday’s referendum, which coincided with Britain’s referendum on membership of the European Union, had previously come under fire from some quarters because it was “non-binding”, although earlier this week Michael Dunkley, the Premier, had insisted: “Any outcome is the will of the people and will guide their elected officials accordingly.”

The Rainbow Alliance had condemned the exercise saying it would cost taxpayers $350,000. The process was also the subject of a Supreme Court challenge in which Chief Justice Ian Kawaley said holding a referendum on same-sex relationships broke a “fundamental principle” in relation to human rights.

The ruling prompted the Bermuda Government into ditching the plan to use churches as designated polling stations.

At the last referendum, on independence, held 21 years ago, 22,236 people voted, a turnout of almost 59 per cent. The result was a resounding 74 per cent no vote.