Bermudan Government Planning Civil Unions


Tensions have been high on the island since both those in favor and against same-sex marriage have had a chance to speak out in recent days, and this week, Bermuda’s Government¬†announced that it will attempt to bring civil union legislation to the island while reinforcing the current matrimonial law that only allows heterosexual marriage.

The island’s Attorney General stated the Government’s intention of recognizing gay couples, and while he rejected the notion of putting the marriage issue to a referendum, he stressed that there is no plan to bring gay marriage to Bermuda.

Instead, the plan is to introduce unions only for gay couples that would allow them to work in Bermuda without a permit and would recognize overseas same-sex marriages as civil unions. The second half of the plan is the most controversial and would amend the Matrimonial Causes Act, which states that marriage is between a man and a woman, to have supremacy over the Human Rights Act, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The move to make the Matrimonial Act trump the other would make it harder for the Legislature to pass a gay marriage law in the future.

The Human Rights Act is frequently cited in pro-LGBT rulings such as a 2015 adoption verdict in favor of gay couples and the ruling by the Chief Justice that set the precedent for couples to be able to reside and work in Bermuda as spouses of Bermudians regardless of orientation. The latter case prompted the Government to try passing a bill recognizing these rights through the House of Assembly before month’s end as the Chief Justice set a February 29th deadline for the Government to act.

If the civil union law fails this month, the Government will let the Chief Justice decide the next step.

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