Bermuda’s Supreme Court has overturned the destination’s ban on same-sex marriage, in a case that had drawn advocacy from major organizations in the travel industry.
The ruling invalidates sections of the Domestic Partnership Act of 2017, which was passed in response to an earlier Supreme Court ruling that had allowed and recognized same-sex marriages on the island. The Domestic Partnership Act had effectively banned same-sex marriages in Bermuda, replacing them with “domestic partnerships” or civil unions.
The case, as reported in Bermuda’s Royal Gazette, pitted plaintiffs Rod Ferguson and Maryellen Jackson, as well as the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization OUTBermuda, against the government of Bermuda. OutBermuda was supported in its efforts by major travel industry player Carnival Corporation, which had briefly been able to offer same-sex wedding ceremonies on its Bermuda-flagged cruise brands – Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises and Cunard – between the initial Supreme Court ruling and the passage of the Domestic Partnership Act.
"All of us at Carnival Corporation applaud the leadership of OUTBermuda and Bermuda’s LGBTQ families for successfully making their case before the Supreme Court of Bermuda to restore the right to marry for all," said Carnival Corporation in a statement provided to Travel Agent. "As a company committed to equality, inclusion and diversity, we believe everyone deserves equal dignity and respect, and we are proud to have provided our support to OUTBermuda’s efforts to champion equality under the law."
Carnival Corp. announced back in April that it would support OUTBermuda in the case, pledging financial, civic and public relations aid, as well as involvement by the company. The company also filed an affidavit supporting the legal action by OUTBermuda and Jackson. At the time Carnival Corp. had said that it favored direct action, rather than dialing back calls to the destination, because of the impact such a move would have on local LGBTQ+ community organizations.
The passage of the Domestic Partnership Act had raised concerns about the island’s larger tourism sector, beyond cruise travel, as well. In a letter to the Senate shortly before the vote on the bill, the Bermuda Tourism Authority warned that passing the Domestic Partnership Act could cause the island “serious reputational damage.”
“We are convinced it will result in lost tourism business for Bermuda,” the Bermuda Tourism Authority wrote at the time.
While the Tourism Authority said that it could not estimate the scale of the losses, it pointed to the passage of North Carolina’s “Bathroom Bill” and Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act as examples, which caused losses of $196 million in tourism revenue and $60 million in convention revenue, respectively.