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Governor seeks advice on partnership Bill

John Rankin, the Governor of Bermuda, is taking legal advice on giving assent to a controversial Bill designed to replace same-sex marriage with “watered-down” domestic partnerships.

Government House confirmed the Governor had asked for legal opinions on the Domestic Partnership Bill in line with provisions in the island’s Constitution.

A spokesman said: “The Governor is continuing to consider the Bill in accordance with Section 35(2) of the Constitution.

“In considering the Bill, he is taking legal advice as appropriate.”

The Domestic Partnership Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in May that paved the way for same-sex couples to marry in Bermuda.

The Constitution does not stipulate a time frame for assenting to Bills.

It is understood that legal arguments over whether the Bill is in line with the Constitution, and international obligations, have to be considered.

The Foreign Office said this month: “While the UK Government is disappointed with the implications of this Bill, this is a matter for the Bermuda Government acting within the terms of the Bermuda Constitution and in accordance with international law.”

Section 35 (2) of the Constitution outlines procedures for the Governor to sign a Bill.

The Governor has to signify that he assents or that he withholds assent or that he “reserves the Bill for the signification of Her Majesty’s pleasure”.

The Governor has to “reserve for the signification of Her Majesty’s pleasure any Bill which appears to him, acting in his discretion ... to be inconsistent with any obligation of Her Majesty or of Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom towards any other state or power or any international organisation”.

The section also allows the Governor to refuse to sign a Bill that is considered to be “in any way repugnant to or inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution”.

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Governor John Rankin is seeking legal advice (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)