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Gay couples have until end of May to marry

Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, revealed today that the Domestic Partnership Act would come into effect on June 1 (File photograph)

Same-sex couples will be able to marry until the end of May, the home affairs minister revealed yesterday.

Walton Brown said the introduction of the Domestic Partnership Act had been delayed to June 1 to allow planned same-sex marriages in Bermuda, and on island-registered ships, to take place.

He added that same-sex couples could still apply for a marriage licence until May 12, but can only apply for a domestic partnership after that date.

Mr Brown said: “Commencement has been delayed to allow for any same-sex marriages that have licences already issued and have been scheduled to be conducted in Bermuda, or on-board Bermuda-registered ships, to actually take place.”

Mr Brown, speaking during the Budget debate on Home Affairs, added: “The Registry General will continue to accept applications for same-sex marriages until May 12, 2018.

“Any application submitted by a same-sex couple after that date must be for a domestic partnership under the new Act, not a marriage under the Marriage Act 1944 or the Maritime Marriage Act 1999.

“The Registrar certificate for marriage, issued by the Registrar-General, under either of these Acts on or before May 12, 2018, will be treated as a licence for domestic partnership if the couple do not marry on or before May 31, 2018.”

Mr Brown added that anyone interested in becoming a domestic partnership officer should contact the Registry General at 297-7739 or 298-7199 for more information.

His remarks came as One Bermuda Alliance MP Patricia Gordon-Pamplin noted the budget drop in expected maritime licensing fees for the upcoming fiscal year, from $200,000 to an estimated $150,000 for 2018-19.

She asked Parliament if the island’s failure to allow Bermudian-registered ships to conduct same-sex marriages had caused the downturn.

However, Mr Brown was unable to respond during the 20 minutes remaining to field Opposition questions.

The Domestic Partnership Act was passed by Parliament in December and given Royal Assent by John Rankin, the Governor, on February 7.

The Royal Gazette reported yesterday that a date has been set in the Supreme Court to challenge the new law designed to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships open to gay and straight couples.

Chief Justice Ian Kawaley will hear the civil case brought by gay Bermudian Rod Ferguson, 38, against Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons on May 21 and 22.

The Domestic Partnership Act reversed a Supreme Court decision last May that enabled gay people to wed on the island and on Bermuda-registered cruise ships around the world.

The move sparked international criticism, including from Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, who said she was “seriously disappointed”.