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Bermuda to ban same-sex marriage just months after it was legalized

The Bermuda Senate gave final legislative approval Wednesday to a measure that would permit only domestic partnerships in the British island territory.
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The flag of Bermuda flies in the city of Hamilton, Bermuda, November 8, 2017.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

The Senate in Bermuda gave final legislative approval Wednesday to a measure that would end same-sex marriage in the British island territory and allow only domestic partnerships.

Senators approved the Domestic Partnership Act (DPA) by an 8-3 vote. The House of Assembly approved it 24-10 on Friday. It must now be signed by the governor before it becomes law in the Atlantic ocean territory.

A Supreme Court ruling in May made same-sex marriages legal in Bermuda amid opposition on the socially conservative island. The ruling Progressive Labor Party (PLP) took up the matter after winning power in the July election.

Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown, a member of PLP, spearheaded the movement to pass the bill.

"The Domestic Partnership Act seeks to provide for the formalisation and registration of a relationship between adult couples, to be known as a domestic partnership; and to clarify the law relating to marriage," Walton told NBC News in a statement. "Domestic partners will have the same benefits as married couples under this Act - something which they currently do not have."

Walton also noted that same-sex couples who are already married or will be married before DPA's commencement date will still be legally recognized as being married.

Opponents of the legislation said that it would be unprecedented to strip the right to same-sex marriage after it had been granted in a jurisdiction and that global reaction could hurt the tourism industry. They said it is discriminatory because same-sex couples would have only the option of domestic partnerships while opposite-sex couples could choose between marriage or a domestic partnership.

“This bill in its simplest forms strips away rights from human beings,” opposition Sen. Nandi Outerbridge said before the vote.

Ruling party Sen. Crystal Casesar defended the bill, saying it would codify the rights of domestic partners, something the Supreme Court did not do in its ruling and acknowledges the reality of public opinion on the island.

“Society largely does not support same-sex marriage nor is it prepared to accept it at this time,” she said.