Bermuda voters reject same-sex marriage in non-binding vote

June 24, 2016 GMT

HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) — A strong majority of voters in Bermuda have opposed same-sex marriage in a non-binding referendum in the British island territory.

Results showed large majorities voting against same-sex marriage and civil unions in separate questions, but the referendum was invalidated because turnout was below 50 percent, officials said Friday.

Premier Michael Dunkley said his government was evaluating the results of Thursday’s vote, in which 69 percent opposed same-sex marriage and 63 percent rejected civil unions. He said the results mean those supporting same-sex marriage in Bermuda will likely go to court to challenge the ban on its recognition.

“This has been and will continue to be a highly sensitive matter,” he said. “Despite our differences we must progress forward. And my hope is that as we move forward as a country, we move ahead with greater tolerance, understanding and respect and appreciation for one another.?”

Dunkley’s government scheduled the non-binding referendum after it considered legalizing same-sex marriage in May 2015 amid strong opposition in the Atlantic Ocean island territory. Officials held several public meetings ahead of the referendum that Dunkley said were aimed at educating the public and fostering discussion.

Shadow Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban urged everyone to respect the referendum’s results.

“We must unite and come together and heal our divisions,” he said in a statement. “There was much energy expended on this issue by both sides.”