LGBT rights in Bermuda

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LGBT rights in Bermuda
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1994,
age of consent not equalised
Gender identity/expression No recognition of gender identity (see below)
Military service Allowed (see below)
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protections (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex couples
Adoption Yes since 2015

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Bermuda face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT persons. Homosexuality is legal in Bermuda, but the country has long held a reputation for being anti-gay.[1][2] It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in Bermuda, but not on the basis of gender identity.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Prior to 1994, gay male sexual conduct were punishable by up to ten years imprisonment. Following the passing of the Stubbs Bill in that year, gay male sexual conduct was legalised in Bermuda, but with a higher age of consent for gay male sexual conduct at 18, than the age of consent of 16 for heterosexual and lesbian sexual conduct.[3][4][5]

Gender identity/expression[edit]

There is no legal recognition of "gender identity", and thus, by omission, no protection from discrimination.[6] The ability of persons to express their gender identity is often difficult; for example, in 2006, the government attempted to ban Mark Anderson, also known as the drag queen "Queen of Bermuda" Sybil, from participating in a parade, stating that he contradicted local mores and sensitivities.[7] In mid-2009 it was announced that gay Bermudians would be participating in Pride London, with an estimated 30 LGBT London residents from Bermuda marching,[8] and that it hoped to follow in Anderson's footsteps and participate in a future Bermuda Day parade; gay Bermudians doubted, however, that there would be large-scale participation due to fears of repercussions against their families.[9]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

There is no official recognition of same-sex couples. In May, 2006, Member of Parliament, former Tourism Minister Renee Webb tabled a private member Bill to add sexual orientation to the Human Rights Act. The Bill was squashed when members of parliament refused to discuss it. In 2004, the government had made it clear that same-sex civil unions, much less same-sex marriage, would not be considered.[10]

Socially, the situation is hard enough that some gay residents have chosen to emigrate, particularly to London in Great Britain (of which Bermudians are citizens), in order to be able to openly be in same-sex relationships. One such emigrant noted that gay relationships have to essentially be secret, with partners introduced only as "friends" and relationships between two Bermudians as being very difficult.[11]

An opinion poll in July 2010 showed 27% in favour of same-sex marriage and 51% against.[12]

On June 18, 2013, newly elected Premier and leader of the OBA Craig Cannonier ruled out same-sex marriage in Bermuda, stating, "I can assure you that under my leadership this is not about same sex marriage, and under my leadership that will not happen." [13][14]

A October 2015 Global Research’s poll, commissioned by The Royal Gazette, found that 48% of Bermudians supported same-sex marriage, 44% were against.[15]

A November, 2015 ruling from the Supreme Court of Bermuda found that those in-binational same-sex partnerships with Bermudans should have the same rights to employment and benefits as all other spouses in Bermuda, without restrictions from immigration requirements. The government did not indicate that they would appeal the decision; however, they did ask for implementation of the judgment to be suspended for an evaluation of the full scope of the judgment on such laws effecting "bankruptcy, estates, wills, succession rules, the right to inherit or receive bequests, health insurance legislation, pensions and social insurance".[16] The ruling came into effect on 29 February 2016.

On 11 February 2016, the Attorney General Trevor Moniz announced that the Government will introduce a bill to create civil unions for same-sex couples. He ruled out legalisation of same-sex marriage.[17] On 29 February 2016, the Government announced its intention to hold a referendum on both same-sex marriage and civil unions.[18] On 12 March 2016, Premier of Bermuda Michael Dunkley announced that the referendum will take place mid-to-late June 2016.[19] The results of the referendum will not be binding and have been described by Dunkley as only a way to get some clarity on the issue. Voters will be asked two questions: "Are you in favour of same-sex marriage in Bermuda?" and "Are you in favour of same-sex civil unions in Bermuda?"[20] Opposition leader Marc Bean added that after the results of the referendum are announced, the Government will govern accordingly.

A non-binding referendum on same-sex marriage was held in Bermuda on 23 June 2016.[21][22][23] Voters were asked two questions; whether they were in favour of same-sex marriages and whether they are in favour of same-sex civil unions.[21][22][23] Both proposals were rejected by 60–70% of voters, though the referendum was invalid as less than 50% of eligible voters turned out.[24] An amendment to Section 15 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, which requires marriage between a man and a woman has been tabled. The amendment would allow sexual orientation discrimination for marriage. Two same-sex couples indicated they would apply for marriage licenses and hope for a court ruling to settle the issue.[25] On 6 July, 2016, a male same-sex couple filed notice of their intent to marry with an accompanying letter from their attorney requesting that the banns be posted within two days. The letter went on to state that unless the registrar notified the parties within the two-day time frame, proceedings would be initiated in the Supreme Court of Bermuda.[26]

On 8 July, 2016, the Bermudian House of Assembly passed amendments to override the Human Rights Amendment's anti-discrimination policy and retain language stating that marriage is limited to a man and a woman.[27] The same day, the Registrar-General's office rejected the application to publish banns for a same-sex couple who had applied for a license earlier in the week,[28] which prompted their attorney to file a writ asking the Supreme Court to determine if the refusal contravened the provisions of the Human Rights Act.[29]

On 21 July, 2016 the Bermuda Senate voted 5-6 to reject the ban on same-sex marriage.[30][31]

Adoption rights[edit]

In February 2015, Hellman J handed down a ruling from the Supreme Court of Bermuda, finding that direct discrimination had been found on the grounds of marital status and indirect discrimination had been found on the grounds of sexual orientation, when a same-sex couple had been denied the ability to apply for an adoption in Bermuda. As a result, the Adoption of Children Act applies equally to married and non-married couples (and as result, same-sex couples).[32][33]

Military service[edit]

The Bermuda Regiment does not discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation, as it is formed by random lottery-style conscription. Officially, members of the Regiment are prohibited from discriminating against or harassing LGBT soldiers;[34] such activities, however, are tolerated by officers, to the extent that one conscript described the Regiment as "the most homophobic environment that exists".[35]

Discrimination protections[edit]

In 2013, the Parliament of Bermuda approved legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.[36][37] Prior to this legislation, Bermuda's Human Rights Commission had repeatedly recommended that the government change discrimination laws.[38] In late 2004, the Government of Bermuda promised to amend the Human Rights Act to cover sexual orientation,[39][40]—but by late 2005 the matter appeared to have been quietly dropped,[41] until the following year. In 2006, an amendment to the Human Rights Act was proposed in the House of Assembly of Bermuda, but the Parliament of Bermuda refused to even discuss the issue.[42] In December 2006 an activist group called "Two Words and a Comma" was formed by member of parliament Renee Webb, journalist AYO Johnson, and Susan Mayall to pressure the government of Bermuda into amending the act.[38] Following his sudden resignation from Cabinet in 2009, former Culture Minister Dale Butler raised the issue of the amendment, saying that he had intended to table an amended Human Rights Bill in Fall 2009, but that it was now the responsibility of new Culture Minister Neletha Butterfield to re-table to do so; Butterfield responded that she was still being apprised of the workings of the Ministry and so could not comment on future plans.[8] In November of that year, following a mention in the annual speech from the throne that the Human Rights Act was to be amended, a rumour circulated that this would include protection for gays.[43] Premier Brown's press secretary appeared to confirm the rumour, but it was refuted by both the Human Rights Commission and Minister Butterfield, who commented that a sexual orientation clause was still under investigation.[44]

Bermudians have tried to appeal to the British Parliament regarding LGBT discrimination,[6] prompting the Foreign Affairs Committee to recommend that the British government should take steps to extend human rights in the British overseas territories (BOT), for which Britain is ultimately responsible.[45] Bermuda's human rights in general do not have a favourable reputation; In mid-2008, Bermuda was the only BOT to refuse to join a four-year human rights initiative organised by the Commonwealth Foundation.[46]


Tourism is a significant aspect of Bermuda's economy. In 2007, LGBT R Family Vacations, with the support of Premier and Minister of Tourism and Transportation Dr. Ewart Brown,[47] considered making Bermuda one of its destinations, seemingly oblivious to the previous year's events. A close ally of Brown, Andre Curtis, who ran a controversial "Faith-Based Tourism" initiative for the Premier, opposed the visit,[48] organising some eighty churches into an interfaith group called "United by Faith" to protest the planned trip[49] alongside the country's African Methodist Episcopal churches.[50] R Family decided to change the itinerary to replace Bermuda with two stops in Florida and a private island. Kaminsky stated

"If we didn't have kids on board and there were protesters, we would go, but we did not want to expose kids to that hatred while they were on vacation."[51]

Ironically, Bermuda has actually been the host of gay tourism for many years. The LGBT travel company Pied Piper, for example, has been organising trips — albeit on a smaller and much quieter scale — to the country since 1990, without incident.[2]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1994)
Equal age of consent No For male / Yes For female
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 2013)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2013)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2013)
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. civil union) Yes (Since 2016 for immigration and employment purposes; civil unions proposed)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2015)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2015)
LGBT people allowed to openly serve within the military Yes
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gay Bermuda - GayTimes
  2. ^ a b "Gay cruisers will still come to BDA". Bermuda Sun. April 20, 2007. 
  3. ^ Stubbs' gay sex bill wins MP's support
  4. ^ Senate passes bill decriminalising gay sex
  5. ^ Criminal Code Amendment Act 1994
  6. ^ a b Smith, Brenda Lana (January 29, 2008). "Human Rights in the Overseas Territories". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  7. ^ Neill, Scott (May 25, 2006). ""Queen of Bermuda" reigns on parade". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  8. ^ a b O'Connor, Clare (3 July 2009). "New Culture Minister now responsible for sexual orientation amendment to Act". 
  9. ^ Huish, Sirkka (3 July 2009). "Bermuda's gays plan Pride parade on island". 
  10. ^ Titterton, Sarah (February 28, 2004). "Island will not consider legalising gay unions, says Minors". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  11. ^ Huish, Sirkka (July 3, 2009). "I could never be open about my sexuality at home and had to move to London". 
  12. ^ "Gay cruise support twice as high as gay marriage support, survey shows". The Royal Gazette. 2010-07-16. Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  13. ^ Hainey, Raymond (June 18, 2013). "Cannonier: Gay marriage "will not happen"". 
  14. ^ "Premier Cannonier: No Same Sex Marriage". Bernews. 2013-06-19. Retrieved 2013-10-08. 
  15. ^ Poll: support for same-sex marriage
  16. ^ Johnston-Barnes, Owain (27 November 2015). "Groundbreaking same-sex ruling". Hamilton HMDX, Bermuda: Royal Gazette. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  17. ^ Civil union legislation plans unveiled
  18. ^ Bermuda plans referendum on same-sex marriage
  19. ^ Jung Thapa, Saurav (26 March 2016). "Bermuda Plans Referendum on Marriage Equality and Civil Unions". Human Rights Campaign. 
  20. ^ "House: same-sex referendum likely in June". The Royal Gazette. 12 March 2016. 
  21. ^ a b Bermuda same-sex marriage referendum set for June 23 Jamaica Observer, 12 May 2016
  22. ^ a b Referendum (Same Sex Relationships) Act 2016 Bermuda Laws Online
  23. ^ a b Referendum (Same Sex Relationships) Notice 2016 Bermuda Laws Online
  24. ^ Jones, Simon (24 June 2016). "Voters roundly reject same-sex marriage". Hamilton, Bermuda: The Royal Gazette. Archived from the original on 25 June 2016. Retrieved 29 June 2016. 
  25. ^ "Same-sex couples set for court fight". Hamilton, Bermuda: The Royal Gazette. 29 June, 2016. Retrieved 29 June 2016.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  26. ^ Strangeways, Sam (6 July 2016). "Gay couple seek consent to marry". Hamilton, Bermuda: The Royal Gazette. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  27. ^ Johnston-Barnes, Owain (8 July 2016). "Bill stops same-sex marriage". Hamilton, Bermuda: The Royal Gazette. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 
  28. ^ Strangeways, Sam (8 July 2016). "Gay couple’s marriage application rejected". Hamilton, Bermuda: The Royal Gazette. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 
  29. ^ Strangeways, Sam (13 July 2016). "Gay couple fight to marry". Hamilton, Bermuda: The Royal Gazette. Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  30. ^ [1]
  31. ^ [2]
  32. ^ "In The Supreme Court of Bermuda CIVIL JURISDICTION 2014: No. 308" (PDF). Government of Bermuda. 3 February 2015. 
  33. ^ Wilson, Paul (May 18, 2015). "Considering roles of the Judiciary and Parliament". The Royal Gazette. 
  34. ^ Bermuda Regiment Standards of Conduct
  35. ^ Strangeways, Sam (May 26, 2006). Bill's supporters stunned by defeat. The Royal Gazette. Retrieved May 8, 2009. 
  36. ^ Johnson, Ayo (June 15, 2013). "MPs approve historic Human Rights Act changes". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved June 15, 2013. 
  37. ^ "Bermuda Senate approves bill prohibiting discrimination against gays". LGBTQ Nation. July 2, 2013. 
  38. ^ a b Northcott, David (22 March 2008). "Submission from David Northcott, on behalf of Two Words and a Comma, Bermuda". House of Commons of the United Kingdom. 
  39. ^ Johnson, Ayo (November 1, 2004). "Gays to get human rights protection". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  40. ^ Johnson, Ayo (November 2, 2004). "Gay rights move applauded". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  41. ^ Wells, Phillip (October 6, 2005). "Equal rights for gays". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  42. ^ "Hundreds demonstrate against MPs' gay rights 'silence'". Bermuda Sun. June 2, 2006. Retrieved November 11, 2008. 
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^ House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (June 18, 2008). "Seventh Report of Sessions 2007-2008: Overseas Territories" (PDF). pp. 8, 81–91. 
  46. ^ Jacobs, Trent (August 19, 2008). "Caymanian to lead the Caribbean rights effort". Cayman Net News. Retrieved May 3, 2009. [dead link]
  47. ^ Bourke, Amy (3 April 2007). "Rosie's gay cruise is backed by Bermuda's leader". Pinknews. Retrieved 2007-06-21. 
  48. ^ Smith, Tim (April 24, 2008). "UK Christian group critical of faith-based tourism". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved November 11, 2008. 
  49. ^ Dale, Amanda (March 30, 2008). "Rethink opposition to gay cruise, churches urged". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved November 11, 2008. 
  50. ^ Jones, Glenn (March 24, 2007). "AMEs launch the first salvo against the Rosie cruise". Retrieved November 11, 2008. 
  51. ^ Guaracino, Jeff (July 2007). "Fun For Grown-Ups Aboard Rosie's r Family Cruises". Instinct (magazine): 48. 

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