Bermuda has become the first country in the world to legalise and then repeal legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry.
A Supreme Court ruling had in May 2017 made same-sex marriages legal in the British Overseas Territory despite opposition.
The Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality was celebrated by the small gay community, but it also outraged many on the socially conservative island, including church leaders, and thousands protested outside parliament.
Bermuda becomes first country in world to repeal same-sex marriage https://t.co/clIuskqaYv
— The Guardian (@guardian) February 8, 2018
But a new law has now been put into force establishing domestic partnerships, and banning same-sex marriage, in what critics have called an unprecedented rollback of civil rights on the socially conservative island.
The Guardian reports that Bermuda’s governor on Wednesday signed into law a bill reversing the right of gay couples to marry.
Under the Domestic Partnership Act 2017, already passed by wide margins by lawmakers of the Bermuda’s House of Assembly and Senate in December last year, any Bermudian will be allowed to form domestic partnerships which the government says will offer equal rights.
Walton Brown, the minister of home affairs, said the legislation signed by Governor John Rankin would balance 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.
“The act is intended to strike a fair balance between two currently irreconcilable groups in Bermuda, by restating that marriage must be between a male and a female while at the same time recognising and protecting the rights of same-sex couples,” said Brown, whose ruling PLP party proposed the repeal.
Meanwhile, same-sex couples who wed in recent months will not have their marital status annulled.
Still, the new act has been criticised by international human rights groups who have lobbied Rankin and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to deviate from standard practice in self-governing UK territories and withhold assent.
They say the new legislation contradicts Bermuda’s constitution, which guarantees freedom from discrimination.