House: more venues for civil marriages
Civil marriages will be allowed to take place at any suitable venue in Bermuda, after a Bill passed at the House of Assembly.
Until now, the Marriage Amendment Act restricted couples seeking a non-religious marriage to performing the ceremony at the Office of the Registrar General in Hamilton.
Civil marriages account for roughly one in four marriages (23.2 per cent) on the island, explained Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Home Affairs.
Ms Gordon-Pamplin insisted that the Bill was not tabled as a “sinister” effort to pre-empt Thursday's referendum on same-sex marriage and civil unions.
Instead, she argued it would help to improve Bermuda's tourism industry as well as generating revenue for wedding-related businesses by allowing people the freedom to choose where they marry, rather than restrict them to one sterile environment.
“Bermuda might be viewed as a more attractive wedding destination for tourists if there were more options for venues at which civil ceremonies could be performed,” Ms Gordon-Pamplin said.
The Bill drew support from both parties, with Progressive Labour MP Michael Scott calling it “a modernising step”, while his party colleague Wayne Furbert said the move “makes sense”.
“I am hoping that the passage of this Bill will serve as a good omen of things to come,” One Bermuda Alliance MP Shawn Crockwell said.
His fellow OBA backbencher Mark Pettingill called it “a move in the right direction”.
Ms Gordon-Pamplin conceded that regulations to discern appropriate wedding locations had not been set in stone as yet.
“I know as individuals, we have some weird foibles at times,” she said, adding that any bizarre or inappropriate locations would likely be vetoed by the Registrar.
“We just want to make sure that the dignity of a ceremony is not usurped in the process.”