It’s official: A New York couple embrace after their marriage at Manhattan’s City Clerk’s Office. *AFP photo
It’s official: A New York couple embrace after their marriage at Manhattan’s City Clerk’s Office. *AFP photo

Bermuda might have to recognise the validity of gay marriages legally carried out abroad.

Attorney General Mark Pettingill said yesterday that, while Bermuda’s current Matrimonial Causes Act says that same-sex marriages would be void in Bermuda, the rights of a couple would have to be respected.

Mr Pettingill said: “Their marriage wouldn’t be recognised in Bermuda — which is not the same thing as saying their rights wouldn’t be recognised.”

And he added that the current laws could even be challenged in court if they fell short of international standards for human rights.

Mr Pettingill said: “There are probably provisions that are in there which could have been tested before this. Human rights provisions in the UK and Europe all impact on us.”

He was speaking after England and Wales earlier this year legalised gay marriages, while the Scottish Parliament is expected to pass a similar law later this year. The UK has had civil partnerships for gay people since 2005.

Many of the UK’s European Union partners, including France, Holland and Portugal, have also passed gay marriage laws, while Canada and more than a dozen US states also recognise and allow same-sex marriages.

Gay marriages also take place in Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand, while the Republic of Ireland, which also has same sex civil partnerships, is likely to vote in favour of gay marriages in a referendum.

Caribbean islands like Aruba Curacao and St Maarten, all Dutch possessions,  recognise gay marriages, although they do not take place there, after Holland’s Supreme Court ruled the islands had to.

The growing acceptance of gay marriage opens the way for gay couples whose marriage is legal in their own countries to move to Bermuda — with an expectation that the rights of spouses would be acknowledged on the island.

Bermuda this week signed into law provisions to extend basic anti-discrimination laws to gay people — but Premier Craig Cannonier was clear that allowing gay marriage was not on the agenda.