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Gay travel firm urges cruise line protest

The owner of an upmarket specialist gay travel firm has called on cruise lines to haul down the Bermuda flag on their ships and register their vessels elsewhere.

Darren Burn, founder of UK-based LGBTQ travel firm OutOfOffice.com, said: “We had customers interested in marrying at sea and now they won't be able to. We'll be sending them to other, more welcoming destinations.”

He added: “We've also encouraged cruise ships to remove their business from Bermuda.”

“We are calling on cruise lines to make a stand and re-register their ships.

Mr Burn said: “It will send a very powerful message that equality cannot be repealed.”

Mr Burn was speaking only days after John Rankin, the Governor, gave Royal Assent to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017, which repealed gay marriage and replaced it with civil unions.

But Mr Burn warned that the decision would damage the island's economy.

Mr Burn said: “This a massive step back in the fight for equality.

“Bermuda had been seen as progressive, but by withdrawing the recognition and protection for same-sex couples, the country will be vilified as one of the most backward.

“As more and more countries enact legislation to ensure equality, this decision will have a significant impact.

“Not only will cruise lines like P&O and Cunard no longer be able to conduct same-sex weddings at sea because they are registered in Bermuda, but it sets a very dangerous precedent and is likely to see other similarly homophobic nations follow.”

Mr Burn said Bermuda had seen a growth in popularity as a holiday destination since a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in May last year, when Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that the island's Registrar-General could not reject a gay couple's application to marry in Bermuda.

The decision paved the way for same-sex marriage on the island and the first gay couple exchanged vows at the Registrar-General's office less than a month later.

But Mr Burn added that customers would likely rethink their travel plans because of the decision to reverse same-sex marriages.

Mr Burn added: “LGBT travellers have 23 per cent more disposable income than heterosexual travellers on average and so it's a shame Bermuda has done this as it will undoubtedly suffer and lose revenue.”

He added: “The Government of Bermuda must realise that they benefit hugely from having ships registered here and that their economy depends on such trade.

“We will be making our views known to the Bermuda tourist board and to our colleagues at affected cruise lines.”

Paul Scope, chairman of the Bermuda Shipping and Maritime Authority, said yesterday that it was “too early to properly gauge how the new law may affect our shipping sector, but Bermuda remains one of the world's most attractive and welcoming ports”.

He added: “Our registry is a Class 1 member of the prestigious Red Ensign Group, and our ships and yachts therefore will continue to enjoy the benefits of that top-tier membership.

“For now, we're assessing the legislative situation, and will provide more information when we have it.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport and Regulatory Affairs added: “The reasons for registering ships on the Bermuda Shipping Registry extend far beyond the ability to perform marriages at sea.

“While there may be other Flags which allow marriages at sea, ship owners have typically chosen Bermuda for a number of professional reasons, not the least of which is its high-quality reputation.

“Currently, the UK does not allow marriages to be performed on their ships.”

Powerful message: Darren Burn, founder of UK-based LGBTQ travel firm Out of Office

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Published February 10, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated February 12, 2018 at 4:15 pm)

Gay travel firm urges cruise line protest

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