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Same-sex: US group pressures Rankin

A gay rights organisation in the United States is urging Bermuda's Governor to reject legislation which will replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships.

The Human Rights Campaign, which calls itself America's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer civil rights organisation, issued a statement in response to the Senate voting yesterday in favour of the Domestic Partnership Act 2017.

The group noted that the island achieved marriage equality through a Supreme Court ruling in May this year, after Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche brought civil proceedings against the Registrar-General for rejecting their application to marry.

It said the effort to repeal marriage equality was led by the Progressive Labour Party, which took power in July, leading to the House of Assembly voting in favour of the Bill on Friday, followed by the Upper Chamber yesterday.

“It now goes to Governor [John] Rankin — who is the representative of the British monarch — for consideration,” said the statement. “If the measure becomes law, the British overseas territory will become the first territory in the world to take away the right of same-sex couples to marry.”

Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global, said: “If Governor Rankin signs this measure into law, it will rip away the right of loving same-sex couples in Bermuda to marry. That's unconscionable.

“With international business and tourism as its major industries, Bermuda's people, international reputation and economy would all be harmed by this legislation. It is crucial that Governor Rankin reject this assault on equality.”

The HRC statement said under the “guise of passing domestic partnership benefits” the Bill sought to strip same-sex Bermudian couples of the right to marry. It noted that Kevin Dallas, executive director of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, had warned of the negative impact on tourism of such a decision.

Human Rights Watch, a separate organisation, based in New York, also commented on the Senate decision today.

Boris Dittrich, the group's LGBT rights advocacy director, said: “The year 2017 has been great for marriage equality, with new laws in Germany, Malta, and Australia, but the year does not end well.

“In Bermuda, the parliament stripped marriage rights from same-sex couples and replaced it with a domestic partnership law.

“If Bermuda's Governor John Rankin will sign the law, Bermuda will become the first country in the world to cancel marriage equality. Let's hope Bermuda will remain a one-off incident and that in 2018, new countries will introduce marriage equality.”

Yesterday's debate in the Senate, when the Bill passed by 8 votes to 3, has prompted headlines all over the world. The United Kingdom's Guardian and Telegraph newspapers are both running stories on the decision today, as well as ITV News, based on an Associated Press report.

Earlier in the week, Newsweek and the Daily Beast ran articles on the Bill passing in the House, along with many other publications, including the UK's Catholic Herald and Attitude magazine.

There have been seven same-sex marriages in Bermuda since the May ruling, according to the Registry-General, with another set to take place before the end of the year.

If Mr Rankin gives assent to the Bill, no further gay marriages will be allowed.

His private secretary said on Tuesday: “In considering this matter, the Governor will continue to act in accordance with his responsibilities under the Constitution.”

On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on a story that we deem might inflame sensitivities. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

Governor John Rankin (File photograph)

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Published December 14, 2017 at 11:25 am (Updated December 15, 2017 at 5:15 pm)

Same-sex: US group pressures Rankin

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