Bermuda Gov. John Rankin has signed a bill legalizing domestic partnerships for the British territory -- an action immediately criticized by LGBT groups because the new law replaces same-sex marriage.
Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown said a referendum had proven that most Bermudians don't want same-sex marriage, which briefly became the law in Bermuda through a Supreme Court ruling last May. The Bermuda Senate approved the domestic partnerships act last December.
"It is the government's belief that this act addresses this position while also complying with the European Courts by ensuring that recognition and protection for same-sex couples are put in place," Brown said in a statement.
"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."
The Human Rights Campaign Global complained the new law strips same-sex Bermudian couples of the right to marry.
"Governor Rankin and the Bermuda Parliament have shamefully made Bermuda the first national territory in the world to repeal marriage equality," Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global, said in a statement. "This decision strips loving same-sex couples of the right to marry and jeopardizes Bermuda's international reputation and economy."
The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda's statement said the domestic partnership act creates a "watered down" version of rights and exists to "placate conservative religious lobbyists."
The Rainbow Alliance said the referendum Brown mentioned didn't accurately reflect how Bermudians feel about same-sex marriage, since it was a nonbinding referendum and few people voted.
"We hope to still welcome LGBTQ visitors to our beautiful island, but understand that many will refuse to travel in a place where they are seen as second-class citizens," the group said.
Brown said the domestic partnership act allows heterosexual or homosexual couples to enter into a domestic partnership.
The act guarantees "the right to inherit in the case of no will, the right to a partner's pension, 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," he said.
Brown said same-sex couples already married under Bermuda law will still be recognized as married.
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