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Domestic Partnership Act comes into effect

Judgement pending: Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General

A new law to ban same-sex marriage but give gay and straight couples the ability to enter into civil unions comes into effect today.

The controversial Domestic Partnership Act 2018 becomes law as marriage-equality campaigners await a ruling from the Supreme Court on their attempt to have part of the legislation struck out on constitutional grounds.

The DPA was approved by Parliament in December, sparking criticism from human rights activists and British MPs, including Prime Minister Theresa May.

John Rankin, the Governor, gave the legislation Royal Assent on February 7. The Act reversed a Supreme Court ruling in May last year that paved the way for gay couples to get married in Bermuda and on ships registered to the island.

There have been 14 same-sex marriages on the island to date, plus six at sea on Bermuda-flagged ships. The latest civil proceedings in Supreme Court were brought against Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons by gay Bermudians Rod Ferguson and Maryellen Jackson and the charity OutBermuda.

The plaintiffs claimed the part of the Act that reaffirmed that a marriage is void unless the parties are male and female was unconstitutional.

Chief Justice Ian Kawaley reserved judgment in the case. It is due to be delivered on June 5.

Same-sex couples had until yesterday to marry. Couples who want to apply for a domestic partnership can contact the Registry-General on 297-7739 or 298-7199 for more information.

• This article has been amended to include up-to date statistics for same-sex marriages, provided by the Registry-General, plus the date on which the judgment from the Chief Justice is due to be delivered.

• Click on the PDF under Related Media for more information on domestic partnerships.