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Cruise line Carnival Corp. joins the fight against Bermuda's same-sex marriage ban

Key Points
  • Cruise line Carnival Corp. is joining the fight to contest Bermuda's same-sex marriage ban.
  • The ban means Carnival's Cunard and P&O ships cannot conduct same-sex marriages regardless of where the ships are in the world.
  • The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda has claimed the law created a "separate-but-equal status under the law."
Carnival Miracle cruise ship
Getty Images

Carnival Corp. is taking a stand in the civil rights struggle in Bermuda.

Bermuda's government became the first to reverse the legalization of same-sex marriage when Governor John Rankin signed the Domestic Partnership Act into law on Feb. 7. The law bans same-sex marriage but allows those couples to have similar rights. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda claimed the law created a "separate-but-equal status under the law."

The law created a significant problem for Carnival. Its subsidiaries Cunard and P&O Cruises are registered in Bermuda. The ban means Cunard and P&O ships cannot conduct same-sex marriages regardless of where the ships are in the world. After taking a hands-off approach immediately after Bermuda enacted the law, Carnival announced that it will join with OUTBermuda to contest the ban.

"Our engagement includes providing OUTBermuda with financial, civic and public relations support, as well as involvement by our company," Carnival said in a statement. The company will also file an affidavit to support the legal action of OUTBermuda. "While we always abide by the laws of the countries we sail to and from, we believe travel and tourism brings people and cultures together in powerful ways. As a result, we believe it is important to stand by the LGBTQ community in Bermuda and its many allies to oppose any actions that restrict travel and tourism."

OUTBermuda said in a statement: "OUTBermuda is proud to work with Carnival Corporation, which includes cruise line brands such as Cunard, P&O Cruises, and Princess Cruises, as the company has a long history of commitment to equality, inclusion, and diversity."

Carnival might have feared the spending power of the LGBT community. Justin Nelson, president and co-founder of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, estimates 80 percent of the American LGBT population has passports, compared with 40 percent of the rest of the population. He puts the economic impact of LGBT travel worldwide at more than $100 billion.

The ban drew criticism from many activists after it was enacted. "The repeal of marriage equality in Bermuda is a denigrating and unnecessary strike against loving and committed LGBTQ couples in Bermuda as well as others around the world who would consider vacationing there," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. "It is now imperative for international businesses that play major roles in Bermuda's economy, such as cruise lines and the travel industry, to make their voices heard."

A handful of celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres, Patricia Arquette and Suze Orman, called for a boycott of Bermuda on Twitter.

Carnival's decision to join with OUTBermuda comes after the company's CEO, Arnold Donald, said on March 22 he would leave the decision to boycott up to cruise guests.