Bermuda voters strongly reject same-sex marriage in non-binding referendum

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Voters in Bermuda have roundly rejected same-sex marriage in a referendum which is non-binding because of low turnout.

The British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, a collection of small North Atlantic islands, has a population of just 65,000 and maintains autonomy from the UK.

While England, Wales and Scotland have all adopted same-sex marriage, Bermuda held a non-binding public vote on the issue on Thursday to decide whether to bring about reforms.

The ballot paper on June 23 asked voters to answer two questions: ‘Are you in favour of same sex marriage in Bermuda?’ and ‘Are you in favour of same sex civil unions in Bermuda?’

But since the turnout was below 50 percent, the referendum was invalidated.

Several areas saw large majorities voting ‘no’ to being in favour of same-sex marriage or civil unions.

Ahead of the vote, right-wing evangelical groups from the US focused efforts in Bermuda.

Premier Michael Dunkley told reporters previously he “intends to vote yes for civil unions on June 23”, though did not specify his position on marriage reforms.

After the vote, the Bermudan leader said: “This has been and will continue to be a highly sensitive matter… Despite our differences we must progress forward. And my hope is that as we move forward as a country, we move ahead with greater tolerance, understanding and respect and appreciation for one another.?”

The Shadow Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban said the result of the referendum must be respected.

“We must unite and come together and heal our divisions,” he said. “There was much energy expended on this issue by both sides.”

Homosexuality was only decriminalised in Bermuda in 1994, but the age of consent has never been equalised – meaning young gay people are still effectively discriminated against by the law.

The Human Rights Campaign reports that “in June 2013, Bermuda banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but the law did not include protections based on gender identity.”

Though Northern Ireland is the only remaining part of the United Kingdom without marriage equality, it is still blocked in the majority of overseas territories.