December 19, 2017 at 7:08 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Bermuda authorities defend territory’s tourism industry

Bermuda, gay news, Washington Blade

Bermuda Tourism Authority CEO Kevin Dallas has defended the island territory’s tourism industry amid growing outrage over a bill that would rescind marriage rights to same-sex couples. The Bermuda Tourism Authority earlier this month urged lawmakers to oppose the measure. (Photo by Mike Oropeza; via Wikimedia Commons)

The CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority on Tuesday defended the island territory’s tourism industry amid growing outrage over a bill that would rescind marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“Bermuda has a well-earned reputation as a warm, friendly and welcoming destination,” said Kevin Dallas in a statement the Bermuda Tourism Authority sent to the Washington Blade. “Out here we believe in the transformative power of travel and the cultural exchanges it inspires between visitors to a destination and the people who live there. We hope all travelers to Bermuda, including LGBT visitors, will continue to believe in and experience this important exchange.”

The Bermuda House of Representatives earlier this month approved the Domestic Partnership Bill, which would allow same-sex couples to enter into domestic partnerships as opposed to get married. The measure passed in the Bermuda Senate on Dec. 13 by an 8-3 vote margin.

Tourism accounts for nearly a third of Bermuda’s gross domestic product.

The Bermuda Tourism Authority on its website says 643,000 people visited Bermuda in 2016. Statistics also indicate that 86 percent of visitors who arrived by cruise ship and 75 percent of visitors who arrived by air were from the U.S.

The Bermuda Tourism Authority — which on its website says it “promotes Bermuda globally as a world-class destination for leisure and group travel and tourism investment” — in a letter it sent to senators urged them to oppose the bill. The Bermuda Tourism Authority noted, among other things, North Carolina’s economy lost $3.76 billion after then-Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016 signed House Bill 2 that banned transgender people from using public bathrooms consistent with their gender identity and banned municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination measures.

“We are convinced it will result in lost tourism business for Bermuda,” said the Bermuda Tourism Authority in its letter.

Advocates in Bermuda and around the world have urged Gov. John Rankin to refuse to sign the bill. A spokesperson for the British Foreign Office has said the issue is “a matter” for the Bermuda government.

More than 60 percent of Bermuda voters in 2016 rejected marriage and civil unions for gays and lesbians in a non-binding referendum. Same-sex couples have nevertheless been able to marry in the territory since Charles-Etta Simmons, a judge on the Bermuda Supreme Court, ruled in favor of the issue.

Bermuda would become the first government in the world outside the U.S. to rescind marriage rights for same-sex couples if Rankin signs the bill.

Gay and lesbian couples had already legally married in California when voters in 2008 approved Proposition 8, which banned them from doing so. They were once again able to legally marry in the state after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 ruled Prop 8 supporters did not have legal standing to appeal previous rulings against them.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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