Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, urged the Governor of Bermuda — John Rankin — to veto legislation passed by the Bermuda Parliament repealing marriage equality. If the measure becomes law, the British overseas territory will become the first territory in the world to take away the right of same-sex couples to marry. The Bermuda Tourism Authority has warned of severe consequences if the measure becomes law.
“If Governor Rankin signs this measure into law, it will rip away the right of loving same-sex couples in Bermuda to marry. That’s unconscionable,” said Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global. “With international business and tourism as its major industries, Bermuda’s people, international reputation, and economy would all be harmed by this legislation. It is crucial that Governor Rankin reject this assault on equality.”
Under the guise of passing domestic partnership benefits, the bill seeks to strip loving same-sex Bermudan couples of the right to marry. The effort is being led by the Progressive Labour Party, which took power in July. Passed by the Bermuda Senate today, the legislation was also approved by the Bermuda House of Assembly late last week. It now goes to Governor Rankin — who is the representative of the British monarch — for consideration.
In a letter to Senators, the Bermuda Tourism Authority warned of consequences for the tourism industry if the measure becomes law, citing economic fallout over anti-LGBTQ measures in North Carolina and Indiana. The letter states, “Significantly, it’s not only LGBT travelers that care about equal rights based on sexual orientation. Our research indicates many companies, consumers and travelers, including the overwhelming majority of the younger visitors powering Bermuda’s growth, care about this issue. It’s why the fallout in North Carolina and Indiana has proven so detrimental.”
Bermuda achieved marriage equality through a Supreme Court ruling in May this year. In the case brought by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche, the couple challenged the Registrar-General’s rejection of their application to marry. According to Grant Spurling, a lawyer who represented the couple in the marriage equality case, “the (Bermuda Supreme) Court is bound by legislation” under Bermuda’s legal system, unlike in the United States where courts can overturn legislation or policies that violate the Constitution. Thus, Bermuda’s legislature has primacy over the courts in many instances.