The island nation of Bermuda, a British Overseas Territory, is set to become the first such jurisdiction in the world to restore the traditional definition of civil marriage. The move comes just six months after the island’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex unions. Legislators in the island's House of Assembly voted on Friday to pass the Domestic Partnership Act. The act defines marriage as being only between a man and a woman. At the same time, however, it creates legal rights for same-sex couples under the title of “domestic partnerships." It does not invalidate same-sex marriages that have already been solemnized after the Supreme Court ruling.

Bermuda's Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown said, “We need to find a way in Bermuda to fully embrace greater rights for all members of the community.

“But the status quo will not stand. On the ground, the political reality is that if we do not lead we would have a private member’s bill tabled to outlaw same-sex marriage. That bill would pass because more than 18 MPs are opposed to same-sex marriage. If that bill passes same-sex couples have no rights whatsoever. This is tough for me. But I don’t shy away from tough decisions.”

Last year, Bermudans overwhelmingly rejected same-sex marriage in a referendum. A judge later ruled that Bermudas Registrar General could not reject a same-sex couple’s marriage application. The traditional definition of marriage, he ruled, was “inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation”.

While members of the opposition in the Assembly called the bill “regressive,” MP Lawrence Scott of the ruling Progressive Labour Party said the bill gives to the "LGBTQ community the benefits it has been asking for." He said that it restores the “traditional definition of marriage.” He said, “As it stands now, they can have the name marriage but without the benefits. But after this bill passes, they have the benefits and just not the name marriage. The benefits are what they really want.”

Opponents of traditional marriage may be able to console themselves by smoking some marijuana. The House of Assembly also passed a bill to decriminalize the possession of less than seven grams of marijuana (cannabis). Under the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill, Bermudans in possession of that quantity or less of cannabis will not fear sanctions. However, police will be authorized to seize any amount of the smoking weed. There will also be regulations for substance abuse education or treatment for those caught with the drug.



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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