LGBT rights in Bermuda

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LGBT rights in Bermuda
Same-sex sexual activity legal status 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
Same-sex marriage legal since 2017
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 territory 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]

A non-binding referendum on same-sex marriage was held in Bermuda on 23 June 2016.[10][11][12] 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.[10][11][12] Both proposals were rejected by 60–70% of voters, though the referendum was invalid as less than 50% of eligible voters turned out.[13]

In November 2015 the Supreme Court of Bermuda ruled to allow bi-national same-sex partners equal rights in employment and benefits as all other spouses in Bermuda.[14] On May 9, 2017, the Government announced that they would not appeal the decision.

In early 2017, the court deliberated on a case brought by a male same-sex couple (Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche), who had their application for a marriage license denied in July 2016. In May 2017 Justice Charles-Etta Simmons made the historic ruling that the couple had been discriminated against and that the Marriage Act 1944 was inconsistent with the provisions of section 2 (2) (a) (ii) as read with section 5 of the Bermuda Human Rights Act, as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation. The ruling had the effect of making same-sex marriage legal in Bermuda.[15][16]

The PLP government passed a law replacing same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships on 13 December 2017.[17] The Governor of Bermuda John Rankin (diplomat) is yet to sign the bill into law, giving it just a mere formality royal assent to the bill.

Adoption rights[edit]

In February 2015, Judge Hellman J of the Supreme Court of Bermuda handed down a ruling, 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 consequently, same-sex couples).[18][19]

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;[20] such activities, however, are tolerated by officers, to the extent that one conscript described the Regiment as "the most homophobic environment that exists".[21]

Discrimination protections[edit]

In 2013, the Parliament of Bermuda approved legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.[22][23] Prior to this legislation, Bermuda's Human Rights Commission had repeatedly recommended that the government change discrimination laws.[24] In late 2004, the Government of Bermuda promised to amend the Human Rights Act to cover sexual orientation,[25][26]—but by late 2005 the matter appeared to have been quietly dropped,[27] 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.[28] 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.[24] 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.[29] 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.[30]

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.[31] 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.[32]


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,[33] 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,[34] organising some eighty churches into an interfaith group called "United by Faith" to protest the planned trip[35] alongside the country's African Methodist Episcopal churches.[36] 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."[37]

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 Yes (Since 2017)
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. domestic partnership) Yes (Since 2016 for immigration and employment purposes only)
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 Archived 2006-09-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  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. [permanent dead link]
  8. ^ a b O'Connor, Clare (3 July 2009). "New Culture Minister now responsible for sexual orientation amendment to Act". [permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Huish, Sirkka (3 July 2009). "Bermuda's gays plan Pride parade on island". 
  10. ^ a b Bermuda same-sex marriage referendum set for June 23 Jamaica Observer, 12 May 2016
  11. ^ a b Referendum (Same Sex Relationships) Act 2016 Bermuda Laws Online
  12. ^ a b Referendum (Same Sex Relationships) Notice 2016 Bermuda Laws Online
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ "Same-sex ruling: the likely implications". The Royal Gazette. 28 November 2015. Archived from the original on 7 May 2017. 
  15. ^ "Landmark same-sex ruling". The Royal Gazette. 5 May 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017. 
  16. ^ "W Godwin et al v Registra General [2017] SC (Bda) 36 Civ" (PDF). Supreme Court of Bermuda. 5 May 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 May 2017. 
  17. ^ "Bermuda to ban same-sex marriage months after it was legalised". The Guardian. 14 December 2017. 
  18. ^ "In The Supreme Court of Bermuda CIVIL JURISDICTION 2014: No. 308" (PDF). Supreme Court of Bermuda. 3 February 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 May 2017. 
  19. ^ Wilson, Paul (May 18, 2015). "Considering roles of the Judiciary and Parliament". The Royal Gazette. 
  20. ^ Bermuda Regiment Standards of Conduct[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Strangeways, Sam (May 26, 2006). Bill's supporters stunned by defeat. The Royal Gazette. Retrieved May 8, 2009. 
  22. ^ Johnson, Ayo (June 15, 2013). "MPs approve historic Human Rights Act changes". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved June 15, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Bermuda Senate approves bill prohibiting discrimination against gays". LGBTQ Nation. July 2, 2013. 
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ Johnson, Ayo (November 1, 2004). "Gays to get human rights protection". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved May 3, 2009. [permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Johnson, Ayo (November 2, 2004). "Gay rights move applauded". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved May 3, 2009. [permanent dead link]
  27. ^ Wells, Phillip (October 6, 2005). "Equal rights for gays". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved May 3, 2009. [permanent dead link]
  28. ^ "Hundreds demonstrate against MPs' gay rights 'silence'". Bermuda Sun. June 2, 2006. Retrieved November 11, 2008. 
  29. ^[permanent dead link]
  30. ^[permanent dead link]
  31. ^ House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (June 18, 2008). "Seventh Report of Sessions 2007-2008: Overseas Territories" (PDF). pp. 8, 81–91. 
  32. ^ Jacobs, Trent (August 19, 2008). "Caymanian to lead the Caribbean rights effort". Cayman Net News. Retrieved May 3, 2009. [dead link]
  33. ^ Bourke, Amy (3 April 2007). "Rosie's gay cruise is backed by Bermuda's leader". Pinknews. Retrieved 2007-06-21. 
  34. ^ Smith, Tim (April 24, 2008). "UK Christian group critical of faith-based tourism". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved November 11, 2008. [permanent dead link]
  35. ^ Dale, Amanda (March 30, 2008). "Rethink opposition to gay cruise, churches urged". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved November 11, 2008. [permanent dead link]
  36. ^ Jones, Glenn (March 24, 2007). "AMEs launch the first salvo against the Rosie cruise". Retrieved November 11, 2008. [permanent dead link]
  37. ^ Guaracino, Jeff (July 2007). "Fun For Grown-Ups Aboard Rosie's r Family Cruises". Instinct: 48. 

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