Carnival Cruises is lending a helping hand to LGBT activists in Bermuda during the island nation’s fight to re-legalize same-sex marriage. In February a law was signed overturning marriage equality — a first worldwide. Since the law’s passage, LGBT activists across the world have been split about how to respond.
Carnival has pledged to help LGBT rights organization OUTBermuda contest the gay marriage ban.
“Our engagement includes providing OUTBermuda with financial, civic and public relations support, as well as involvement by our company,” Carnival Cruises 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.”
While this Carnival initiative is a fight for the LGBT citizens of Bermuda, for sure, the company also has a vested interest in re-legalizing gay marriage. Because the company’s subsidiaries Cunard and P&O Cruises are registered in Bermuda, the ban means ships cannot conduct same-sex marriages regardless of where in the world those ships sit. Carnival’s ability to host gay weddings on board is thereby hindered, standing in the way of big bucks down the road.
Bermuda’s same-sex marriage ban drew criticism from many activists after it was enacted, and many celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres, pledged not to travel to the island because of it.
“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.”
Some international LGBT activists, though, like Jessica Stern, fear a travel ban on Bermuda could actually needlessly harm the island’s queer population.
Stern’s organization, OutRight Action International, seeks to advance human rights and opportunities for LGBTQ people around the world by developing critical partnerships at global, regional and national levels to build capacity, document violations, advocate for inclusion and equality and hold leaders accountable for protecting the rights of all LGBTIQ people.
Stern told Hornet, “I think [the Boycott Bermuda campaign] was well-intended, but it was also uninformed. Boycotting the island’s main source of income and employment — tourism — in the name of LGBTIQ+ rights is a recipe for disaster and backlash against queers locally.”
The investment by Carnival Cruises in this matter of re-legalizing gay marriage is a huge turning point for the debate. It will be interesting to see how other travel brands respond in the next few months, and whether Carnival’s interest in the matter will be able to restore the marriage equality Bermuda once had.