Bermuda may rescind same-sex marriage

  • by Heather Cassell
  • Wednesday December 13, 2017
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In what's believed to be a first, the island paradise of Bermuda may rescind same-sex marriage rights that were granted several months ago.

According to Agence France-Presse, Bermuda's House of Assembly voted 24-10 last Friday to replace same-sex marriage laws with a domestic partnership status. The bill still requires passage by the British overseas territory's 11-member Senate as well as the signature of the island's governor.

The bill stripped the title of marriage away from same-sex couples, but left the benefits intact, according to media reports.

"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," Bermuda Member of Parliament Lawrence Scott told the Royal Gazette.

Lawmakers opposed to the move said it marked a step backward for Bermuda.

"This is a human rights issue. We are taking away marriage equality rights from the LGBTQ community," said Grant Gibbons, shadow economic development minister, after the vote, reported the Jamaican Observer.

The cruise industry will be affected by any change and tourism officials are concerned since many same-sex weddings have been booked on Bermuda-registered cruise ships. If the law is revoked, those marriages would not take place.

Marriage equality has been controversial in Bermuda.

In 2016, voters rejected a referendum to approve same-sex marriage by 69 percent in the British overseas territory. However, voters who opposed the referendum failed to show up at the polls by less than 50 percent, invalidating the vote.

In May, the Bermuda Supreme Court ruled in favor of a gay couple - Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiance, Greg DeRoche - to marry. The court's decision paved the way for marriage equality in Bermuda, reported United Press International.

Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown introduced the latest bill as a compromise against another bill that would completely ban same-sex marriage on the island nation, he told the International Business Times.

"On the ground, the political reality is that if we do not lead, we would have a private members bill tabled to outlaw same-sex marriage," he explained to the newspaper. "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," he added.

Shadow Home Affairs Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said, "I don't like to accept that it is OK for us to treat our sisters and brothers differently, whether fair or unfair, to treat them differently under similar circumstances."

Wedding bells to ring in Australia in January

Australian LGBT couples will be able to marry starting January 9.

Australia's Parliament broke into song, singing "I am, you are, we are Australian," following the overwhelming vote ushering in same-sex marriage to the Oceanic country December 7, reported Vox.

Only four members of the house voted against the bill.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull traveled to meet Governor-General Peter Cosgrove at the Government House in Canberra, the capital of Australia, to make the law official.

Cosgrove signed the law December 9 on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II, Australia's constitutional head of state.

Same-sex couples who wed overseas were immediately recognized as married under Australian law with his signature Saturday, reported ABC News.

The attorney general's department had new forms ready online for same-sex couples to register to marry December 8. The new forms offer couples intending to marry to select "male," "female," or "x."

"X" refers to "indeterminate, intersex or unspecified," reported ABC.

The new form also adds the option of "partner," rather than "bride" or "groom."

Celebrations erupted in Sydney's gayborhood on Oxford Street, which is also Turnbull's electorate and where the famed Sydney Mardi Gras is hosted. Turnbull is the first - and only - prime minister to participate in the annual parade.

"This is an historic day in the struggle for civil rights in Australia," Mayor Darcy Byrne told ABC.

Botswana emerging as LGBT game-changer in Africa

Two landmark decisions made by Botswana's high court this fall regarding gender identity could signal changes in Africa.

Last week, Justice Leatile Dambe ordered Botswana's Registrar of National Registration to change the gender identity of Tshepo Ricki Kgositau, a transgender woman, to "female" within seven days and to issue her a new identification card within 21 days.

Kgositau, who has identified as female from an early age and was supported by friends and family who testified on her behalf in court documents, is the head of Gender Dynamix, a South Africa-based advocacy organization.

At the end of September, the same court ordered the country's registrar to change the gender marker from "female" to "male" for a transgender man's government-issued ID.

Justice Godfrey Nthomiwa delivered the judgment for the man, identified as ND, September 29. The court found that authorities violated his right to dignity and freedom of expression when he requested to change his legal gender identity. The court found that authorities' denial was "unreasonable" and violated ND's rights to dignity and freedom of expression, as well as freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment, reported the Independent.

Additionally, the judge said that the state and society have a duty to respect and uphold individual rights to human dignity, despite differing views and values they might hold regarding an individual's gender identity, Tashwill Esterhuizen, an attorney with the Southern Africa Litigation Center, a legal advocacy organization that represented the transgender man, wrote in an op-ed for the Daily Maverick.

Esterhuizen called the win, "A monumental victory" for transgender individuals in the region.

"It has given us a lot of hope," said Caine Youngman, founder of LGBT advocacy organization Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana, better known as Legabibo. "There's room for us to be accommodated in our own country."

Legabibo won the first groundbreaking decision by the Botswana Court of Appeal in 2016 that upheld the right for the LGBT advocacy group to legally register as a nonprofit organization.

Homosexuality is illegal under Section 164, an antiquated British colonial-era law that banned "carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature," in Botswana and carries a prison term up to seven years.

Botswana joined Britain's Commonwealth in 1966 soon after it became a republic.

British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to uphold LGBT rights at the Commonwealth nations meeting next year.

Speaking at a Pink News event, she said it was Britain's "special responsibility" since it imposed anti-gay laws during colonization. While Britain has moved forward on LGBT rights, many Commonwealth nations still uphold antiquated laws. She said it's her role and the role of Britain to "help change hearts and mind," of the Commonwealth nations on LGBT rights, she said.

Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at Skype: heather.cassell or [email protected].