Gay MP says Bermuda's ban on same-sex marriage will damage Britain's reputation

Saturday, January 27, 2018

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HAMILTON, Bermuda (CMC) — Chris Bryant, an openly gay legislator and former United Kingdom Overseas Territories Minister at Britain's Foreign Office, says Bermuda's move to ban same-sex marriage will damage Britain's international reputation if it is allowed to go ahead.

Bryant, who will lead a debate on the controversy in the House of Commons in London on Monday, told the Royal Gazette newspaper here that the British Government should block a bill designed to replace same-sex marriage with civil partnerships.

The Domestic Partnership Act, which aims to reverse a Supreme Court ruling last May that opened the way for gay marriages in this British Overseas Territory, has yet to be signed into law by Governor John Rankin.

Bryant said: “I think Britain will harm its reputation internationally for leading on such issues as this when we basically say, 'Yes, in one of our Overseas Territories, which has a strong link to the United Kingdom and has the same queen, we are prepared to sanction getting rid of same-sex marriage.

“I used to be a minister in the Church of England. I understand some people's religious issues around all this, but 200 years ago the Church of England still thought slavery was okay

“I think in 200 years' time, Christians will be saying 'why weren't we celebrating love?' Lots of Christians do, of course.”

Bryant, 56, has been given a half-hour adjournment debate on the Bermuda bill, to be held at the end of Monday's session at Westminster. He will speak for 15 minutes before Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson responds for the British Government.

Bryant, the Opposition Labour MP for Rhondda in Wales, said “I'll say I think the Government should always sit down with politicians in each of the Overseas Territories and try not to get to these standoffs.

“I think the only legitimate position for a Government that supports same-sex marriage is to say to those territories it must stand there as it does here in the United Kingdom.”

Bryant said he “very much” valued the links between the UK and its Overseas Territories, adding the close ties meant the United Kingdom was prepared to step in with help last year when Caribbean territories were hammered by hurricanes.

Bryant, who entered into a civil partnership in 2010, said “that's the kind of link we want to retain”, adding he believed Britain, where same-sex marriage was introduced in 2014, had a duty to intervene in Bermuda, as it should in Northern Ireland, where marriage equality is also illegal.

Monday's debate in the Commons will not result in a parliamentary resolution, but Bryant said he hoped the British Government would pledge to stand by same-sex marriage and stand by its “strong links” with Bermuda.

The Foreign Office said this month that it was “disappointed” by the Domestic Partnership Act, which was passed by Parliament here last month.

But a spokeswoman added that “this is a matter for the Bermuda Government, acting within the terms of the Bermuda Constitution and in accordance with international law”.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Bermuda since the Supreme Court ruled in May last year that it was discriminatory to deny gay couples the right to wed.

The judgement was the result of a lawsuit brought by a gay couple, Winston Godwin, a Bermudian, and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche, against the Registrar General's decision to refuse to post their wedding banns.

The pair eventually wed in Canada but at least half a dozen gay couples have been married on the island. Until the governor makes a ruling on the bill gay couples can continue to get married here as well as at sea on Bermuda-registered cruise ships.

The now ruling Progressive Labour Party (PLP) underlined in its general election manifesto its opposition to gay marriage, but pledged to introduce legislation to give same-sex couples “similar legal benefits as heterosexual couples”.

Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown tabled the Domestic Partnership Bill after the party's election win last summer and it was approved by both the House of Assembly and the Senate in December.

The move sparked international headlines and overseas media reported that Bermuda would become the first country in the world to reverse marriage equality.




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