Bermuda was one of the few countries to legalise same-sex marriage, but in a rather surprising move, the country has become the first in the world to repeal the move. Same-sex couples will now only have the option of entering into a registered domestic partnership.
On Wednesday, February 7, Bermuda’s Governor, John Rankin, approved a bill reversing the right of gay couples to marry. It is to be noted that Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory and same-sex marriage became legal in the United Kingdom in 2013.
Why Bermuda repealed same-sex marriage?
The Supreme Court of Bermuda issued a ruling in May 2017, declaring that same-sex couples have a legal right to marry in the territory after which the parliament passed the legislation in December. The ruling faced a backlash from the conservative opposition party in Bermuda. The move also outraged many on the socially conservative island, including church leaders.
In a debate in the UK’s House of Commons in January, Labour MP Chris Bryant called the bill a “deeply unpleasant and a very cynical piece of legislation”. However, same-sex marriages that took place in Bermuda between the supreme court ruling in May 2017 and the repeal will continue to be recognised under the new law.
Speaking about revising the same-sex marriage bill, Governor John Rankin said that he was seeking to balance the opposition to same-sex marriage on the socially conservative island while complying with European Court rulings that ensure recognition and protection for same-sex couples in the territory. Rankin also said those couples would have “equivalent” rights to married heterosexual couples, including the right to make medical decisions on behalf of one’s partner.
How Bermuda’s laws are different from Britain?
Though Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory, the United Kingdom only handles the territory’s external affairs. In all internal matters, the Atlantic island is self-governing. No British or European laws are necessarily applicable to Bermuda.
The state of same-sex marriage in the rest of the world
While Bermuda has repealed same-sex marriage, 26 countries over the world have extended equal marriage rights to LGBT couples. The first country to legalise same-sex marriage was the Netherlands, which passed the law back in 2000 and the last country was Australia, which held a referendum regarding the same in 2017.
LGBT Rights in India
In India, homosexual sexual relations are penalised under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. In 2009, the Delhi High Court took down the archaic law, however, the Supreme Court reinstated it in 2013. After the Supreme Court passed the Right to Privacy judgement in 2017, a larger bench is going to reconsider the apex court’s 2013 judgement. In 2014, the Supreme Court also gave out NALSA judgement which stated that concerned the rights of transgender persons.