Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Despite a Supreme Court ruling last year authorizing same-sex marriages, Bermuda's governor approved a bill reversing the right of gay couples to marry.
The new act defines "domestic partnerships," instead of marriages, for same-sex couples, though Rankin said the rights of couples in domestic partnerships won't differ from those who are married.
"The Domestic Partnership Act permits any couple (heterosexual or homosexual) to enter into a domestic partnership and gives same-sex couples rights equivalent to those enjoyed by heterosexual married couples; rights that were not guaranteed before the passage of this Act," Rankin said.
Included in the act is the right to inherit in the case of no will, the right to a partner's pensions, access to property rights, the right to make medical decisions on behalf of one's partner and the right to live and work in Bermuda as the domestic partner of a Bermudian.
"The Act is intended to strike a fair balance between two currently irreconcilable groups in Bermuda, by restating that marriage must be between a male and a female while at the same time recognizing and protecting the rights of same-sex couples," Rankin said.
Same-sex couples previously married under Bermuda law will continue to be recognized as being married and overseas same-sex marriages taking place before and during the transitional period will be recognized as marriages in Bermuda, Rankin said.
Critics say it is unprecedented that a jurisdiction would take away the legal right to marriage after it has been granted.
"Governor Rankin and the Bermuda Parliament have shamefully made Bermuda the first national territory in the world to repeal marriage equality," said Ty Cobb, director of Human Rights Campaign Global. "This decision strips loving same-sex couples of the right to marry and jeopardizes Bermuda's international reputation and economy."
The Bermuda Tourism Authority has said the tourism industry would have an economic fallout if the law goes into effect.
"At the Bermuda Tourism Authority, we work hard to keep our research and commentary on this issue restricted to economics," Kevin Dallas, Bermuda Tourism Authority CEO, said in a December letter to lawmakers. "The Bermuda tourism economy, and the workers and businesses who make it thrive, deserve their fair share of the LGBT market as we all continue the uphill climb toward tourism resurgence."