UK legislation could make same-sex marriage lawful
Legislation has been tabled in the UK House of Lords that could make same-sex marriage lawful throughout the British Overseas Territories – including Bermuda.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) (Overseas Territories) Bill – tabled by Lord Michael Cashman yesterday – would require overseas territories to modify their laws to grant same sex-couples the same right to marriage as opposite-sex couples.
The legislation, if approved, would make same-sex marriage lawful in Bermuda along with Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos.
The second reading of the Bill – when it would be debated – has yet to be scheduled.
Lord Cashman, a co-founder of LGBTQ+ organisation Stonewall, said on Twitter: “Recognising none of us are equal until we all are equal. Together. Only together.”
Explanatory notes said the Bill would “empower the governor of each territory to make changes to the law in the territory to recognise the lawfulness of same-sex marriage and allow for the solemnisation of marriage of same-sex couples”.
The notes add that the Bill would also protect individuals and religious organisations who do not want to conduct or participate in same-sex marriage.
The explanatory notes said that Parliament was able to enact primary legislation for any of the British Overseas Territories.
“As the UK Government has recognised, it ‘has responsibilities towards the people of the territories and, while it ‘acknowledges the sensitivity of this area of work’, it ‘believes that those living in the Territories have a right to expect the same high standards of governance as in the UK, including in the areas of human rights’,” the explanatory notes add.
“This requires the UK to ‘promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the people of the territories, to ensure their just treatment and their protection against abuses’.
“By legislating to make same-sex marriage lawful in the six overseas territories, Parliament will ensure that same-sex couples receive equal treatment and are protected against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.”
Same-sex marriage was legalised in Bermuda in May 2017 as a result of a legal action which found that the Human Rights Act had guaranteed same-sex couples the right to wed.
However, in December that year, the Government passed the Domestic Partnership Act, which restricted marriage to opposite-sex couples while introducing domestic partnership for same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
Legal action opposing the legislation was launched and in 2018, the Supreme Court found that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
As a result of the ruling, same-sex marriages were able to resume.
The Government appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal and later London’s Privy Council, which in March found in favour of the Attorney-General by a majority decision, which allowed same-sex marriages to be halted again.
The Government has since passed amendments to the legislation to confirm that the marriages of same-sex couples who wed during the legal battle would be recognised.