November 30, 2006
Africa is 5th country with gay marriage
By Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell
Today, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka signed into law the new Civil Union Bill, only hours before a December 1 deadline, set by the Constitutional Court. The government was forced to legislate on same-sex marriage after the country's highest court ruled in December 2005 that the country must treat gay and lesbian couples equal to opposite sex couples.
The Bill received 230 votes in its favour and 41 votes against, with three abstentions. It regulates the solemnisation and registration of civil unions formed through either marriage or a civil partnership. It covers the rights and obligations, through legal consequences of the solemnisation and registration of civil unions.
South Africa is the first country on the continent to achieve the new benchmark of human rights: equal marriage for same-sex couples. It is the fifth country in the world to legalize gay marriage after the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada.
As in Canada, a modern constitutional democracy helped create the framework for the expansion of human rights, including protection of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
"The challenge that we shall continue to face has to do with the fact that when we attained our democracy, we sought to distinguish ourselves from an unjust painful past, by declaring that never again shall it be that any South African will be discriminated against on the basis of colour, creed, culture and sex," Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told South Africa's Mail & Guardian, (Dec. 1, 2006).
Merchants and businesses are already reaching out to same-sex couples, reports SAPA (Nov. 30, 2006):
"I think it's a great marketing opportunity and it's a great event -- we are the first country in Africa to enshrine it and so it's something to celebrate," said jewelry designer Johan Louw.
Congratulations to the couples, their family and friends, advocates (including our link partners the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project), lawyers, courts, and volunteers who helped achieve equal marriage in South Africa. The country now stands as a benchmark for equality in a continent where homosexuality is still illegal in several countries.