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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 22 January, 2020

Bermuda becomes first in the world to legalise and then repeal same-sex marriage

Theresa May has said she is “seriously disappointed” in the decision from the British overseas territory.

Image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

BERMUDA HAS BECOME the first jurisdiction in the world to legalise and then repeal same-sex marriage in a move that UK Prime Minister Theresa May has described as “seriously disappointing”.

The overseas British territory had legalised same-sex marriage last May, after the country’s Supreme Court made a decision, but the ruling party in the country’s parliament has overturned it in a ruling on Wednesday.

Bermuda’s minister of home affairs Walton Brown said that anyone who has been married since last May will continue to be so despite the new legislation, and added that the decision was taken because of the feelings of the majority of people on the island.

He said: “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.”

The Domestic Partnership Act permits any couple to enter into a domestic partnership and gives same-sex couples rights “equivalent to those enjoyed by heterosexual married couples”, Brown said.

It would have been permitted for the UK government to block this change, but after what Foreign Minister Harriett Baldwin called “full and careful consideration”, it chose not to.

She said: “The [Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson] decided that in these circumstances it would not be appropriate to use this power to block legislation, which can only be used where there is a legal or constitutional basis for doing so, and even then only in exceptional circumstances.”

MPs on all sides of the House of Commons have been critical of the move, however, with Labour’s Chris Bryant saying the reversal would make the UK “a laughing stock in the international human rights field”.

He added that it “totally undermines UK effort(s) to advance LGBT rights”.

The prohibition will also mean that Bermuda-registered cruise ships won’t be able to host same-sex weddings.

In a joint statement, Cunard and P&O Cruises said: “We do not underestimate the disappointment this will cause those guests who have planned their weddings.”

Read: Bermuda bans same-sex marriage – just months after legalising it

Read: Here are the Paradise Paper highlights – and why they matter

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Sean Murray

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