The island nation of Bermuda became the first country to overturn marriage equality after allowing same-sex couples to marry for the first time earlier this year.
On Friday, the lower house of Bermuda’s Parliament, known as the House of Assembly, passed the Domestic Partnerships Act of 2017 by a decisive margin. Twenty-four members of Parliament (MPs) voted in favor of the legislation, which voids same-sex marriage in favor of domestic partnerships.
Ten lawmakers cast a ballot against the bill, while two MPs abstained.
Progressive Labor Party member Lawrence Scott assured the LGBTQ community that nothing would change under the new legislation, claiming that the Domestic Partnerships Act grants “the LGBTQ community the benefits it has been asking for,” while preserving “the traditional definition of marriage.”
“As it stands now, they can have the name marriage but without the benefits,” he told Jamaica’s Royal Gazette prior to the vote. “But after this bill passes, they have the benefits and just not the name marriage. The benefits are what they really want.”
Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown believes the legislation is a necessary evil in a legislature likely to overturn equality entirely if a compromise weren’t struck.
“We need to find a way in Bermuda to fully embrace greater rights for all members of the community,” Brown claimed in an interview with the newspaper. “But the status quo will not stand. On the ground, the political reality is that if we do not lead we would have a bill tabled to outlaw same-sex marriage.”
“That bill would pass because more than 18 MPs are opposed to same sex marriage,” he continued. “If that bill passes, same-sex couples have no rights whatsoever.”
The country’s Supreme Court initially paved the way for marriage equality in May after judges ruled that Bermudan Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, had the right to wed under its Human Rights Act.
“[T]he common law discriminates against same-sex couples by excluding them from marriage and more broadly speaking the institution of marriage,” claimed Justice Charles-Etta Simmons in the landmark ruling. “On the facts of this case, the applicants were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation when the Registrar refused to process their notice of intended marriage.”
Last week’s Parliamentary decision will not nullify Godwin and DeRoche’s union, nor the marriages of any other couples who have tied the knot since that ruling came down. The couple nonetheless called the decision a “shame” in a press release.
“It is a shame that it has come to this after such a long fought battle, but it is important to acknowledge what we have been able to achieve together,” they said in a press release.
Although a 2015 survey from Royal Gazette found that a majority of Bermudans (48 percent) support marriage equality, LGBTQ rights have faced a tough road in the Caribbean island. Sixty-nine percent of voters cast a ballot banning same-sex unions in a 2016 referendum, but less than 50 percent of the population voted in the non-binding plebiscite.