Minister: Bill Seeks To Expand Marriage Locations

June 20, 2016

Home Affairs Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin delivered the Second Reading of the ‘Marriage Amendment Act 2016′ Bill in the House of Assembly, saying it “seeks to support the Government’s commitment to rebuilding Bermuda’s tourism industry and to generating new revenue by expanding the locations at which marriage ceremonies performed by the Registrar General may be conducted.”

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin Bermuda June 18 2016

The Minister said that in 2015, 118 marriages – representing 23.2% of the marriages conducted in Bermuda – were civil ceremonies performed at the Registrar’s office.

“Many couples prefer to have civil ceremonies rather than religious ceremonies for various reasons, and therefore Bermuda might be viewed as a more attractive wedding destination for tourists if there were more options for venues at which civil ceremonies could be performed,” said the Minister.

“The amendments enable marriages to be contracted before the Registrar at approved alternative locations, since the office of the Registrar General is currently the only permitted venue for such marriages.”

The Minister’s full statement is below:

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to introduce for the Second Reading the Bill entitled: “Marriage Amendment Act 2016”. The Bill seeks to support the Government’s commitment to rebuilding Bermuda’s tourism industry and to generating new revenue by expanding the locations at which marriage ceremonies performed by the Registrar General may be conducted.

Mr. Speaker, section 24[1] of the Marriage Act 1944 [“the Act”] provides that persons who obtain a certificate for marriage from the Registrar General, or a special licence from the Minister, may contract marriage at the office of the Registrar. Marriages before the Registrar are considered civil marriage ceremonies which have become increasingly popular in recent years, particular among persons visiting Bermuda for the purpose of getting married.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members are advised that for the year 2015, one hundred and eighteen [118] marriages representing twenty three point two percent [23.2%] of the marriages conducted in Bermuda were civil ceremonies performed at the Registrar’s office. Many couples prefer to have civil ceremonies rather than religious ceremonies for various reasons, and therefore Bermuda might be viewed as a more attractive wedding destination for tourists if there were more options for venues at which civil ceremonies could be performed.

Mr. Speaker, the Bill amends section 24 of the Act by deleting the words “at the office of the Registrar” in subsection [1] and by inserting a dash and the following after subsection [1][a] -

  • (i) at the office of the Registrar; or
  • (ii) at an alternative approved location

Also, new subsections [3] and [4] are inserted to grant the Minister responsible for the Registry General the power to make regulations, subject to the negative resolution procedure, to prescribe the approved alternative locations. The Minister is also empowered to approve an additional location on application by the parties.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members should note that there is a housekeeping amendment as the Bill repeals section 21 of the Marriage Act 1944 [Commonwealth citizens intending marriage; one in Bermuda and the other in the United Kingdom], and is no longer of any utility. There has been no practical application of this section and there is no record of anyone ever applying for a certificate of marriage to be recognized in such manner.

Mr. Speaker, the amendments enable marriages to be contracted before the Registrar at approved alternative locations, since the office of the Registrar General is currently the only permitted venue for such marriages. However, the Bill does not affect marriages celebrated by marriage officers, which may be continue to be performed in a place of worship or in any other place in Bermuda, subject to the provisions of the Act.

Mr. Speaker, it is proposed to expand the venues of civil ceremonies beyond the Registrar’s office subject to permission being granted by the property owner to have access to the property with the approval of the Registrar. It is envisioned that this would allow civil ceremonies to be performed in venues such as buildings owned by Government to national parks and beaches as examples. It is also proposed that the Registrar set policies as to the type of venues that might be appropriate.

Mr. Speaker, it is recommended that the fee for weddings performed before the Registrar outside of the Registrar’s office would be set in the Government Fees Regulations 1976 at $450, which represents a $205 or 83.7% increase over the $245 fee currently charged when ceremonies are performed at the Registry General.

Honourable Members will agree that the fee increase is reasonable and necessary to absorb any additional cost incurred by the Registry General to perform an out of office wedding, e.g. travel time and expense to perform a wedding in St. George’s or Dockyard. Also, the new fee is comparable to the fees charged by various local churches for religious wedding ceremonies.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, the Marriage Amendment Act 2016 contributes to the Government’s efforts to rebuild Bermuda’s tourism industry by expanding the venues for civil marriage ceremonies beyond the Registrar’s office, providing more options so that Bermuda might be viewed as a more attractive wedding destination for tourists, and to generate new revenue by setting a fee of $450 in the Government Fees Regulations 1976 for civil ceremonies conducted outside the Registrar’s office.

Mr. Speaker, I now move that that the Bill entitled “Marriage Amendment Act 2016” be read for the second time.

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Comments (24)

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  1. Rhonda says:

    This is revenue generating for the govt…because people can marry anywhere outside of the church….at home. In a park. On the beach..

    Is this the stepping stone for profiting on what the govt sees as a massive, response to SS civil unions.

    As seen in other jurisdiction.

    • Coffee says:

      I see it much the same way …

    • Common Sense says:

      How on earth is this a “massive” response to SS civil unions. I have attended Bermuda marriage ceremonies in parks, on beaches, and in the garden of a private home – all conducted either by priests or marriage officers. In fact the law already allows for marriage officers to conduct ceremonies just about anywhere in Bermuda.

      As I read it all this amendment does is to allow the Registrar to conduct civil marriage ceremonies in such locations, just as priests and marriage officers can already do.

      Objectors to this simple amendment to the law are trying to create a moral panic where none exists.

      It is interesting to note that 23% of all marriages in Bermuda last year were civil ceremonies and that trend appears to be increasing. I presume that Preserve Marriage is fully supportive of civil marriage – rather than no marriage!

    • LOL says:

      what “massive response” to SSM or civil unions as seen in other jurisdictions. please specify jurisdictions and numbers.

  2. Legalgal says:

    Great idea. Many jurisdictions allow “officers of the court” to be appointed marriage officers to oversee these ceremonies. In a civil setting (and given the legal nature of the duty) it would make sense to appoint qualified persons to perform this duty. It is an important niche tourist market.

  3. The government is seen working for the people of Bermuda .Do what you must, as long as you stand by your word, that “Marriage in Bermuda shall be between one man and one woman .” You can not begin to move the old Land Marks. To do so would be to lead the country into confussion.

    • Mike Hind says:

      I still don’t understand what is so confusing, especially for the country, if we were to remove that clause and allow everyone to have equal access to the rights afforded by marriage, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.

      I know you won’t explain, but I have to ask:

      How will this lead the country into confussion?

  4. takbir Sharrieff says:

    Revenue earning and tourism expansion are merely ploys to induce L.B.G.T activity .or acid – tivity. The attempt to legitimize foul, ***********,behaviour will fail.No human being has ever been born ,or ever will be born, without the aid of a man and a woman. Attempting to civilize or legitimize savage ,below the level of ******* behaviour,is a nefarious attempt at Government,to disobey the natural order of G-D. A civil arrangement between same, sexes, for the purpose of committing the sex act,was prevalent in the Caves ,and Hillsides of Europe for thousands of Years.The Romans practiced it for centuries ,hence the coinage of the Word, Rome-mance,,,Romance,the way the Romans made love.Shame on Government and their supporters.G-d *** them for trying to sneak same sex behavior in the back door ,by trying to vote it in,with the support of un-enlightened people.No Peace for them,only hell.

    • Common Sense says:

      Takbir has to realize that homosexuality is not in any way shape or form illegal in Bermuda. The law was amended in 1994 when the Stubbs Bill was passed, and amongst those who voted to amend the law included then leader of the PLP L. Frederick Wade and Dame Lois Brown-Evans, both great champions of civil rights and human rights.

      It is also an offence under Bermuda law to discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientation under our Human Rights legislation – plain and simple.

      It is manifestly wrong of Takbir to use such insulting language about gay people. Whether he likes it or not, what he calls “foul ……….. ” is already totally legal in Bermuda. The days of harassing and insulting gay people are over although some will no doubt try to retain their bigoted views and make arbitrary decisions about who God will be sending to hell.

    • Hurricane says:

      takbir Sharrieff sounding like a ******* a** again. Since when did marriage have anything to do with giving birth?

      Salaam!

    • Mike Hind says:

      More bizarre ranting hate speech from Mr. Sharrieff.

      Same sex behavior is already here, sir. It’s already legal and protected. We’re talking about marriage and nothing you’ve said has anything to do with marriage.

      Please try to keep up.

    • Zevon says:

      And yet Mohammed, at the age of 50, married a six year old. He refrained from having sexual relations with her until she was nine, when he was 54. What a guy. This person is the basis of tye stone-age belief system you wish to impose on the rest of us.

  5. Rhonda says:

    Low income couples same sex or not .. Will have to apply to FA to marry.

  6. Mike Hind says:

    I wonder if we could get legislation to allow for people other than the Registrar to perform civil ceremonies.

  7. whatwillittake says:

    Backdoor parlor tricks by this govt. Just say ‘in preparation for the passing of civil unions act we are making it possible for those persons to have the ceremony at a venue of thier choice just like religious ceremonies’. Be honest and up front. No need for all the rhetoric and innuendo.

    • Mike Hind says:

      This, I gotta agree with. This government has been awful with regards to messaging, on all accounts.

      Too bad the alternative is so much worse.

    • What?? says:

      The draft Civil Unions Act already allows for that. This change has nothing to do with Civil Unions so they are hiding nothing.

  8. Tony Brannon says:

    Marriage Equality will ad tens of millions of tourism revenue for Bermuda. Why don’t you tell Bermuda that Minister ?
    Vote Yes Yes X

    • LOL says:

      where is your proof that same sex marriages will add (not ad) tens of millions of dollars of tourism revenue to Bermuda? please specify jurisdictions and tourism increase revenue numbers.

      vote NO NO

      • Mike Hind says:

        Wait… vote no no because you don’t think it will?
        That’s nonsense.

        Or is there another reason to vote no no?

      • PBanks says:

        To be fair (and pragmatic), that Rosie O’Donnell cruise of a few years ago would have likely gone ahead (and potentially repeated itself over the years) instead of getting pulled. So that’s a chunk of cash right there.

  9. Hurricane says:

    @ Rhonda, people can marry anywhere outside of the church now, at home, in the park, on the beach, and that’s a good thing. Not everyone wants to go near the churches.

    • What?? says:

      They can marry anyway where they want as long as that marriage is conducted by a Marriage Officer. But only members of the various clergy can be Marriage Officers. This is the first time that those who wish a totally non-religious wedding in Bermuda have an option other than the Registrars office.

  10. Nightlilly says:

    About time