The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs in South Africa’s Parliament passed the Civil Union Amendment Bill on Wednesday (28 November).
This is a major step forward for same-sex couples who want to marry in the country.
The amendment bill aims to overturn Section 6 of the Civil Union Act. This portion of the Civil Union Act allows Home Affairs officials to refuse to marry same-sex couples on the basis of their ‘conscience, religion [or] belief’.
According to Mamba Online, Cope MP Deidre Carter introduced the bill in January.
Carter first introduced the bill due to the increasing number of same-sex couples seeking to marry being turned away by Home Affairs officials.
Stats indicate only 111 Home Affairs branches, out of 412, have officials willing to marry same-sex couples.
The committee unanimously passed the bill, with some provisions.
One of the provisions allows officials who previously did not marry same-sex couples to continue doing so for two years. This gives Home Affairs time to implement the new policy. New officials, however, cannot opt out at all for any time.
If a branch has an official opting out for the two year period, however, they must have another official available who can perform same-sex marriages.
The bill’s next step is to go to the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, for debate. Carter told Mamba Online she believes it could become law next year.
Making a move for equal rights
Hlomani Chauke, who works for parliamentary communication services, said in a statement: ‘The committee is of the view that this amendment is a strong affirmation to the right of equality before the law and further prevents any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.’
Chauke further said Section 6 ‘infringed the right to equality before the law’.
This is a first step for accomplishing such a right to equality.