Burmuda repeals same-sex marriage act

Graphic by Penelope Taylor ’20

Graphic by Penelope Taylor ’20

BY MAYA HOFFMAN ’20

Bermuda repealed their ruling in favor of same-sex marriage on Feb. 7, 2018, a mere nine months after it passed, making Bermuda the first country in the world to repeal same-sex marriage.

Bermuda Gov. John Rankin signed the law repealing the right for same-sex couples to marry. A new law, titled Domestic Partnership Act 2017, preserves many of the rights given to same-sex couples in the previous ruling, but substitutes the legal title of same-sex marriage with “domestic partnerships,” according to The Washington Post. Gov. Rankin went on record with The Washington Post to express that the act’s repeal was an attempt to compromise between Bermudians on opposing sides of the issue. 

There has been significant backlash to the repeal. According to The New York Times, Bermuda is a British overseas territory, but they independently manage their internal affairs. They only rely on Britain for defense and representation in international organizations. British Prime Minister Theresa May made it clear that British parliament was not pleased with the ruling in Bermuda, but it is also recognized that it would be inappropriate for Britain to intervene or block the measure.

The Bermuda government’s website states that “while the majority of Bermudians do not agree with same-sex marriage — as evidenced by the referendum — it is the Government’s belief that this Act addresses this position while also complying with the European Courts by ensuring that recognition and protection for same sex couples are put in place.”

While the Bermudian government has the right to create their own laws, the decision to label gay couples as “domestic partners” instead of married could endanger their future agency as they ruled in opposition of the European courts. “It raises questions for me as to the role of the judicial system in Bermuda,” said Sarah Hutter ’20, a politics major. “While it looks like the Bermudian parliament had the legal right to reverse the Supreme Court's decision, I believe that by doing so they're undermining the legitimacy of the Court and that could have an impact on future cases.”

Dissidents on social media have created the hashtag “#BoycottBermuda” to protest the repeal. Some supporters of the #BoycottBermuda movement have canceled pre-planned trips to the island in an attempt to stall their tourism industry. According to NPR, many cruise ship companies, including Cunard and P&O cruises, will have to halt service of weddings for gay couples on the shores of Bermuda, which had become popular over the past few months. 

Although the half a dozen Bermudian gay couples who were married in the nine-month period will maintain their marital status, many still consider the repeal a setback to the LGBT community. Jolie Karlin ’20, a resident of the Mary Woolley LGBTQAI floor, said, “It’s frustrating watching people gamble with human rights and the happiness of others.” 

The #BoycottBermuda movement has spurred tangential conversations on the nature of activism. Students have expressed concern about “hashtag activism,” which is defined by the New York Times as expressing digital solidarity for a movement without taking offline action. Such “hashtag activism” has been used at increasing rates and is generally recognized as a phenomenon unique to this particular era and generation. Karlin stated, “Hashtag activism is beneficial in the sense that is starts conversations and allows for a line of communication to open between people and an issue.” Yet Karlin still remains critical of the new form of activism, saying “the issue with ‘hashtag activism’ is that it can turn into people patting themselves on the back instead of analyzing how they actually contribute to the problem and how they can help be a part of the solution.”

The repeal of same-sex marriage in Bermuda has sent waves across the international community, opening the door to new dialogues about the role of same-sex marriage and LGBT activism in countries throughout the world. 

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