Less than a year after same-sex marriages were legalized in Bermuda, the governor of the British island territory signed a bill into law on Wednesday that replaced it with domestic partnerships.
According to the local news site Bernews, Gov. John Rankin said the new law grants same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. However, the law permits same-sex couples to enter into domestic partnerships only ― not legal marriages.
The Bermuda government will continue to recognize same-sex couples who wed before the law was reversed as married couples.
In a tweet, Chris Bryant, an openly gay member of Parliament, said that Bermuda’s decision to ban same-sex marriages “totally undermines the [United Kingdom’s] effort to advance LGBT rights.” Critics and human rights advocates also called the rare move a direct attack on LGTBQ rights:
Ty Cobb, director of Human Rights Campaign Global, said in a statement that Rankin and the Bermuda Parliament “have shamefully made Bermuda the first national territory in the world to repeal marriage equality.”
“This decision strips loving same-sex couples of the right to marry and jeopardizes Bermuda’s international reputation and economy,” Cobb said.
Same-sex marriage was first legalized in Bermuda in May 2017 after the nation’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of a gay couple who sued for equal marriage rights. Winston Godwin, a Bermudian, and Greg DeRoche, a Canadian, filed the lawsuit after their marriage application was declined by Bermuda’s Registrar-General, Bernews reported.
After the ruling was handed down, conservative leaders argued that it did not reflect the majority interests of the people in Bermuda, per The New York Times.
In December, Bermuda’s Senate and House of Assembly passed legislation designed to reverse the Supreme Court ruling. It passed by wide margins.
Godwin and DeRoche told Bernews on Wednesday that they were “deeply saddened” that the governor signed the bill into law.
“It’s a sad day for Bermuda, it’s a sad day for human rights,” the couple said.
Walton Brown, Bermuda’s minister of home affairs, said the new domestic partnership law was “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.”
Prominent LGBTQ rights activists, including GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis and screenwriter Peter Paige, are encouraging people to boycott the Atlantic island using the hashtag #BoycottBermuda.