The British territory of Bermuda has become the first jurisdiction to roll back same-sex marriage, less than one year after the unions were legalized by the socially conservative island’s supreme court.
Governor John Rankin signed the Domestic Partnership Act into law Wednesday reversing the rights of same-sex partners to wed. The legislation allows any couple to enter into a domestic partnership and gives same-sex couples similar rights to those enjoyed by opposite-sex couples. But such partnerships will not be legally recognized as “marriage.”
“The Act is intended to strike a fair balance between two irreconcilable groups in Bermuda, by restating that marriage must be between a male and a female while at the same time recognizing and protecting the rights of same-sex couples,” the governor’s office said in a statement posted to its website.
The act passed Bermuda’s House and Senate by wide margins in December. A 2016 referendum found nearly 69 percent of Bermudians oppose same-sex marriage.
The British government condemned the move but said it could not rightfully intervene to block the legislation. British Prime Minister Theresa May was “seriously disappointed” by the decision, a spokesperson told the Associated Press.
About a half-dozen same-sex couples married in the months after the practice was legalized on the small island of approximately 65,000. Those unions will continue to be recognized under the law, the governor’s office said.
Gay-rights groups around the world blasted the move as a step in the wrong direction for equality.
Ty Cobb, director of Human Rights Campaign Global, said the legislation “strips loving same-sex couples of the right to marry and jeopardizes Bermuda’s international reputation and economy.”
“Despite this deplorable action, the fight for marriage equality in Bermuda will continue until the day when every Bermudian is afforded the right to marry the person they love,” Mr. Cobb said in a statement.