Bermuda's decision to become the first nation to legalise and then repeal same-sex marriages has been met with calls to boycott the country.

John Rankin, governor of the socially conservative British island territory, signed the bill which removed the right for gay couples to marry.

Walton Brown, the minister for home affairs, said that the law would balance opposition to gay marriage while staying in line with European court rulings that protect and recognise same-sex couples on the island, Associated Press reported.

"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," Brown said.

Same-sex unions were legalised in May 2017 after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of a couple who sued for marriage rights. The decision to scrap the law came after Bermuda's Senate and House of Assembly passed a bill in December, which followed a referendum where the majority of voters opposed same-sex marriages.

Half a dozen same-sex marriages that have been officiated since May 2017 will now be recognised as "domestic partnerships". Couples will retain the rights afforded to heterosexual couples, such as making medical decisions on behalf of their partner.

However, the move has been attacked as an unprecedented step back in civil rights in Bermuda.

Human rights groups previously urged Rankin and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to break with convention and intervene to stop the law from being passed in the self-governing territory. Campaigners argued that it contradicted Bermuda's constitution guaranteeing freedom from discrimination.

"It is a shame that the leadership required by the government to champion equality is still missing," Kenita Placide, the Caribbean adviser of LGBT charity OutRight International, told IBTimes UK.

"The government needs to stop playing with people's lives and understand the reality that every citizen is entitled to the same rights, without differentiation. It seems sub-colonialism is still alive and afraid to allow freedom and fluidity to raise. We now need to ensure the Act is implemented fairly and better understand what rights and privileges are recognised and what limitations exist."

The act of reversing a law that already guaranteed a right sets a serious precedent in the region
- Dario Arias

Darío Arias and Luz Aranda, co-secretaries general of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association of Latin American and the Caribbean told IBTimes UK: "What has just happened in Bermuda seems very serious. Marriage equality is a right, and in this case it was guaranteed only starting from May last year.

"The new legislation in Bermuda is discriminatory and the act of reversing a law that already guaranteed a right sets a serious precedent in the region. We strongly condemn this decision and urge Governor John Rankin to reverse this measure as soon as possible".

Ty Cobb, director of LGBT rights group Human Rights Campaign, said in: "Governor Rankin and the Bermuda Parliament have shamefully made Bermuda the first national territory in the world to repeal marriage equality.

"This decision strips loving same-sex couples of the right to marry and jeopardises Bermuda's international reputation and economy. Despite this deplorable action, the fight for marriage equality in Bermuda will continue until the day when every Bermudian is afforded the right to marry the person they love."

The news was met with anger on Twitter, as activists and members of the public called for a boycott of the popular tourist destination. One tweeter called the move "evil":