In February, Bermuda made world headlines when it became the first nation in the world to repeal same-sex marriage. Just nine months after the British territory first legalized same-sex marriage, Governor John Rankin signed the Domestic Partnership Act (DPA) which revoked marriage rights for same-sex couples. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda decried the law, saying that it created “separate-but-equal status under the law.”
The passage of the DPA posed significant problems for Carnival cruises. Because of “longstanding law and custom,” ships registered in Bermuda (Carnival has several from P&O Cruises and Cunard ships) could perform legally binding weddings at sea. When same-sex marriage was passed in Bermuda, Carnival began offering wedding packages to same-sex couples.
But, with the passage of the DPA, Carnival can no longer perform same-sex marriage on Bermuda-registered ships, no matter where in the world the ship is when the wedding takes place.
Last week, Carnival Corporation released a statement that it would provide financial, civil and public relations support to OUTBermuda, an LGBTQ organization that submitted a summons to the Supreme Court of Bermuda declaring that the DPA is unconstitutional.
“While we always abide by the laws of the countries we sail to and from, we believe travel and tourism brings people and cultures together in powerful ways,” Carnival said in a statement. “As a result, we believe it is important to stand by the LGBTQ community in Bermuda and its many allies to oppose any actions that restrict travel and tourism.”
Immediately after the passage of the DPA, many Internet activists called to #BoycottBermuda by cancelling vacations, believing that the absence of tourism dollars would pressure the Bermuda government into reinstating same-sex marriage. The hashtag gained celebrity support from Ellen Degeneres, Patricia Arquette, and Suze Orman.
However, some LGBTQ Bermudians believe that a boycott may not be the most effective manner to bring same-sex marriage back to the island territory, according to a report by Them.
“As a gay Bermudian, I actually feel pretty lucky,” Kevin Dallas, CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, told Them last month. “The freedom, protections, and inclusivity we enjoy is something that, frankly, most LGBT communities aspire to. That doesn’t mean we don’t clearly still have some battles to wage, but life is actually pretty good for us.”
Same-sex civil ceremonies are still legal in Bermuda and the country’s Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The same is not true in many other Caribbean countries and territories — or even in many American states. In 28 states, it is still legal to fire someone solely because of their sexual orientation.
Bermuda’s reversal reflects the trajectory of one of our country’s most left-leaning states. California, the first state to legalize gay marriage in 2008, overturned the decision just a few months later in a ballot proposition. Gay marriage returned to the state in 2013 after the proposition was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court in 2010.
Bermuda’s Domestic Partnership Act will go into effect on June 1. OUTBermuda is hoping to be in court against the DPA in May.