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South African officials banned from refusing to marry same-sex couples

South African officials banned from refusing to marry same-sex couples

  • ‘This upholds our constitutional right.’
Johannesburg Pride.

Religious marriage officers and magistrates will now have to wed same-sex couples in South Africa, even if they disagree with marriage equality.

The country’s Civil Union Act previously had a ‘conscientious objection clause’. It allowed officials to opt out of registering same-sex marriages if it went against their religious or personal beliefs.

But now the National Council of Provinces, South Africa’s senate, has removed the opt-out.

The bill will now become law, assuming President Cyril Ramaphosa signs it.

LGBT+ South Africans have heralded the victory, including people of faith.

Reverend Ecclesia de Lange from Inclusive and Affirming Ministries said:

‘It’s a positive step in the right direction to ensure equal rights for all people, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity. This upholds our constitutional right.’

Meanwhile Amy-Leigh Payne of the Legal Resource Centre added:

‘The amendment is significant in that it ensures that the discrimination and marginalisation faced by same-sex couples is effectively addressed and that the state embraces equality and dignity as both values and rights in the Constitution.’ 

But, of course, not everyone agrees. 

Michael Swain, executive director of Freedom of Religion South Africa said:

‘Many people are legitimately concerned that the passing of this bill into law will open the door to a world where people who hold traditional, conservative values will increasingly be forced to either compromise or face significant personal sanctions.

‘The mantra of mutual respect is no longer “live and let live”.’

LGBT+ rights in South Africa

South Africa has offered same-sex couples the right to marry since 2006.

The Constitutional Court had ruled in 2005 that it was unconstitutional to deny marriage to same-sex partners.

The country also offers trans people the right to change gender and same-sex couples may adopt. All LGBT+ people enjoy anti-discrimination protections.

Despite this, LGBT+ people continue to face discrimination and violence. Indeed gay women are particulalry at risk of attack and even ‘corrective rape’.