Bermuda Senate approves marriage repeal bill

The Bermuda Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would rescind marriage rights for same-sex couples in the British island territory.

The 8-3 vote took place less than a week after the Bermuda House of Representatives approved the measure, which would allow same-sex couples to enter into domestic partnerships as opposed to getting married. The bill will become law unless Gov. John Rankin refuses to sign it.

LGBT rights advocates urged lawmakers to oppose the measure, which is known as the Domestic Partnership Bill.

The Bermuda Tourism Authority in a letter it sent to senators on Tuesday noted North Carolina's economy lost $3.76 billion after then-Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016 signed a bill that banned transgender people from using public bathrooms consistent with their gender identity and banned municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination measures. The letter also noted Indiana's religious freedom bill that then-Gov. Mike Pence signed in 2015 had a similar impact on his state's economy.

"We are convinced it will result in lost tourism business for Bermuda," said the Bermuda Tourism Authority. "While we cannot responsibly estimate what the scale of those losses will be, we can point to contemporary examples that tell a cautionary tale."

More than 60 percent of Bermuda voters in 2016 rejected marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples in a non-binding referendum. Same-sex couples have nevertheless been able to marry in Bermuda since Charles-Etta Simmons, a judge on the territory's Supreme Court, ruled in favor of the issue.

California voters in 2008 approved Proposition 8, which banned same-sex couples from marrying in the state. Gays and lesbians had legally married in California before Prop 8's approval.

Same-sex couples were able to legally marry in California again in June 2013 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Prop 8's proponents did not have legal standing to appeal previous rulings against them. Bermuda would become the first government in the world outside the U.S. to rescind marriage rights for same-sex couples if Rankin signs the bill.

"If Governor Rankin signs this measure into law, it will rip away the right of loving same-sex couples in Bermuda to marry," said Human Rights Campaign Global Director Ty Cobb in a press release. "That's unconscionable."

"With international business and tourism as its major industries, Bermuda's people, international reputation, and economy would all be harmed by this legislation," he added. "It is crucial that Governor Rankin reject this assault on equality."