Bermuda has become the first ever country to repeal gay marriage.
This week the wealthy Atlantic island approved a bill that revokes a gay person’s right to marry their partner.
‘I feel enormously disappointed,’ said 64-year-old Bermudian Joe Gibbons, who is married to his partner.
‘This is not equality, and the British government has obviously just said, “This is not our fight”.’
The decision, by Governor John Rankin, comes as many Western countries legalise same-sex marriage.
Same-sex couples who wed in recent months will not have their marital status annulled.
Under the Domestic Partnership Act 2017, already passed by Bermuda’s House of Assembly and Senate, any resident will be allowed to form ‘domestic partnerships’ which the government says will offer equal rights.
The new act has been slammed by international human rights groups, who have lobbied Rankin and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to deviate from standard practice in self-governing UK territories and withhold assent.
LGBT rights defenders say the new legislation contradicts Bermuda’s constitution, which guarantees freedom from discrimination.
The Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality in May 2017 was celebrated by the gay community, but it also irked some on the socially conservative island, including church leaders, leading to thousands protesting outside parliament.
In a debate in the UK’s House of Commons last month, Labour lawmaker Chris Bryant called the bill a ‘deeply unpleasant and very cynical piece of legislation’.
The governor declined to comment beyond a brief statement that said: ‘After careful consideration in line with my responsibilities under the Constitution, I have today given assent to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017.’
Walton Brown, Bermuda’s Minister of Home Affairs, whose ruling PLP party proposed the act, said on Wednesday he was pleased with the decision.
‘The British government recognises that this is a local government decision,’ Brown said, adding that the act struck a compromise by ‘restating that marriage must be between a male and a female while at the same time recognising and protecting the rights of same-sex couples.’