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MP asks why UK does not strike down Bermuda same-sex marriage ban

Lloyd Russell-Moyle

The British Government should have intervened when Bermuda’s lawmakers banned same-sex marriage, the House of Commons in London heard last week.

The comments came from Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a Labour MP and a member of the Socialist Campaign Group parliamentary caucus, during a debate on LGBT History Month.

Eliot Colburn, a Conservative MP, told the House that “LGBT+ people are still criminalised and persecuted because of who they are and who they love in 67 countries across the world”.

“Half of those are Commonwealth countries, where homophobic and transphobic laws and attitudes exported and implemented by the UK have still not been repealed.”

He added: “Recent years have seen an increase in the decriminalisation of LGBT+ people.

“Just last year, same-sex activity was decriminalised in Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Singapore and Barbados, with many more countries likely to follow.

“Equal marriage legislation has progressed across the world, in countries including Cuba, Slovenia and Mexico last year.”

Mr Russell-Moyle asked if he was disappointed at Bermuda’s removal of the legal basis for same-sex marriage, as well as “this Government’s failure to intervene to prevent it despite their ability to do so”.

The Bermuda Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in May, 2017.

But the Government responded by passed a Bill banning gay people the right to wed – although civil partnerships were permitted.

It led to a legal battle that ultimately reached the Privy Council in London, which upheld the law banning same-sex marriage.

The Labour MP, who became the first MP to disclose that he was HIV positive in 2018, pointed out that Britain had blocked Bermuda’s legislation that would have allowed the use of cannabis, including recreationally, in September 2022.

The Brighton, Kemptown MP told the House: “They did intervene to prevent Bermuda from legalising cannabis, so they have no problem with intervening, but they did not intervene on the human rights issue of same-sex marriage, which was such a disappointment.”

Mr Colburn replied: “I agree that that is a great disappointment.”

He said the example illustrated “not taking rights for granted, and the fact that the fight for LGBT+ rights does not always move in a linear, A to B direction”.

“There is always a struggle,” he said, telling MPs that “we have to remember that and always be conscious of it”.

The move by Rena Lalgie, the Governor, to deny royal assent to the Progressive Labour Party’s Cannabis Licensing Bill, came at the instruction of the UK foreign secretary on the grounds it would breach Britain’s international treaty obligations.

British MPs also discussed Bermuda’s blocking of same-sex marriage last November.

On that occasion, David Rutley, the parliamentary under-secretary for the Foreign office highlighted that Britain’s Overseas Territories were largely self-governing – and that “marriage law is an area of devolved responsibility”.

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Published February 07, 2023 at 9:55 am (Updated February 07, 2023 at 9:55 am)

MP asks why UK does not strike down Bermuda same-sex marriage ban

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