Back and Forth in Bermuda

By, Kyle Bevenour

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Bermuda is known for being a popular travel destination with its tropical Caribbean climate and pristine beaches. Recently, however, the island has been cast in a bad light. Bermuda holds the unique position of being the only nation on earth to legalize same-sex marriage and, subsequently, repeal it.  

Bermuda’s governor, John Rankin, signed a bill allowing for the reversal of same-sex marriage despite a previous supreme court ruling that legalized the policy. Although the rights of same-sex couples who had already been married in Bermuda were protected under the bill, the letter of the law stated that marriage was strictly between a man and a woman. The back and forth nature of the nation’s same-sex marriage law created a major backlash both on the island and throughout the world.

Ty Cobb, the Director of Human Rights Campaign Global said, “Governor Rankin and the Bermuda parliament have shamefully made Bermuda the first national territory in the world to repeal marriage equality.” With marriage equality not being recognized, same-sex couples on the island could only be in a domestic partnership.

The repeal of marriage equality posed a potential crisis to the island’s vibrant tourism industry. The cruise line industry is a prime example. Couples often get married on cruise lines, many of which are based in and/or dock in Bermuda. The island nation’s reversal of marriage equality meant that many cruise lines would no longer be able to legally perform same-sex wedding ceremonies on the high seas.

A spokesperson from Carnival UK addressed concerned customers who wanted same-sex marriage ceremonies performed on their cruise ships saying, “We would still love to welcome couples on board though as planned. Whilst we are unable to hold the legal ceremony, we can still offer a Commitment Ceremony to celebrate their partnership or a renewal of vows ceremony, both of which will be officiated by the captain or a senior officer.”  

Travel agencies began welcoming cruise lines to relocate their ports of call and encouraging customers to select cruise lines that do not dock in Bermuda. Gay travel specialist, Darren Burn, noted, “There are plenty of other cruise ships out there that do allow same-sex weddings.”

Because Bermuda faced such extreme political and economic backlash from its abrupt policy reversal on marriage equality, the island nation quickly opted to change the new law and legally sanctify same-sex marriage again. Marriage equality advocates and tourism industry professionals rejoiced in the decision. It shows that despite numerous challenges, same-sex marriage laws are advancing around the world and that #LoveWins.