Bermuda has become the first country to repeal legislation allowing same-sex couples to get married.
Couples of the same gender had been allowed to tie the knot in the British Overseas Territory since May 2017.
But now a law has been enforced establishing domestic partnerships instead, a move that critics have described as an unprecedented rollback of civil rights.
Bermuda’s government said the legislation signed by Governor John Rankin aims to balance opposition to same-sex marriage with European court rulings that ensure recognition and protection for same sex-couples on the island.
Parliament had overwhelmingly passed the legislation in December, and a majority of Bermudans voted against same-sex marriage in a referendum.
“The act is intended to strike a fair balance between two currently irreconcilable groups in Bermuda, by restating that marriage must be between a male and a female while at the same time recognising and protecting the rights of same-sex couples,” said minister of home affairs Walton Brown.
Now, couples in a registered domestic partnership will have “equivalent” rights to married heterosexual couples, including the right to take medical decisions on behalf of one’s partner.
But LGBTQ civil rights groups said the unprecedented decision gave same-sex couples second-class status.
Ty Cobb, director of the Human Rights Campaign Global, said: “Governor Rankin and the Bermuda parliament have shamefully made Bermuda the first national territory in the world to repeal marriage equality.”
Around half a dozen same-sex marriages that occurred between the court ruling last May and the repeal are recognised under the new law.