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Bermuda legalizes same-sex marriage — again

The island's Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a gay marriage ban that was signed into law just four months ago.
by Brooke Sopelsa and Ariel Jao /

Bermuda’s Supreme Court on Wednesday legalized same-sex marriage in the British island territory again — overturning a ban that was signed into law just four months ago.

The Supreme Court first legalized same-sex marriage last May. Then in February, Bermuda became the first national territory in the world to repeal its gay marriage legislation.

LGBTQ-rights groups around the world celebrated Wednesday’s decision.

“Love wins again! Our hearts and hopes are full, thanks to this historic decision by our Supreme Court and its recognition that all Bermuda families matter,” OUTBermuda, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement. "Equality under the law is our birthright, and we begin by making every marriage equal."

Ty Cobb, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s global department, said in a statement that the court had "righted" an injustice.

Same-sex marriage was opposed by religious leaders and other social conservatives in Bermuda, but in Wednesday’s ruling, Chief Justice Ian Kawaley provided a reminder that Bermuda's Constitution is secular, "designed to require the State to give maximum protection for freedom of conscience."

"It only permits interference with such freedoms in the public interest for rational and secular grounds which are permitted by the Constitution,” Kawaley wrote. “The present decision vindicates the principle that Parliament cannot impose the religious preferences of any one group on the society as a whole through legislation of general application.”

After Bermuda replaced same-sex marriages with domestic partnerships in February, there were concerns the decision would hurt the island’s tourism industry, which directly and indirectly employs more than 17 percent of Bermudans and is responsible for nearly 14 percent of its GDP, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The legal battle in Bermuda drew in the cruise line Carnival Corp, which is registered in the island. Bermuda's Domestic Partnership Act had prevented the company from conducting same-sex marriages aboard its ships anywhere in the world. According to CNBC, Carnival Corp provided "financial, public relations and civic" support to OUTBermuda in its efforts to challenge the island's same-sex marriage ban.

There was also a call to boycott traveling to Bermuda, which stars like Ellen DeGeneres and Patricia Arquette participated in.

The island’s tourism industry welcomed the decision Wednesday.

"Bermuda’s tourism industry welcomes all, including LGBTQ travellers. The Bermuda Tourism Authority and our industry partners are committed to inclusiveness and to treating all visitors with respect," Kevin Dallas, the openly gay CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said by email. "As we’ve shared throughout this process, we believe in the transformative power of travel and the exchange of ideas and understanding it inspires. We continue to be dedicated to inspiring travellers to choose Bermuda every day."

The government of Bermuda has six weeks to appeal Kawaley's decision, and Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown told Bermuda's Royal Gazette the ruling will be challenged.

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