News of the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee’s adoption of the Civil Union Amendment Bill been welcomed by LGBT+ advocacy groups. The bill, if passed by the National Assembly, will compel matrimonial officers at Home Affairs to officiate same-sex marriages, regardless of whether or not they agree with the union.
The adoption of the bill has been praised as a step towards a more equal South Africa.
Section 6 of the Civil Union Act has allowed marriage officials to refuse to formalise same-sex civil unions based on their personal beliefs by. Approximately 37% of marriage officials have declined to marry same-sex couples.
The section does not require marriage officials to have a “sincere religious objection”, or that measures be carried out to determine whether their objections against marrying a same-sex couple are motivated by prejudice.
“The Civil Union Act was enacted to provide equal protection to same-sex couples. However, the inclusion of Section 6 in the act has continued to marginalise and discriminate against same-sex couples,” rights organisation Free Gender told IOL.
Free Gender also pointed to a report published by MambaOnline, which showed that only 117 Home Affairs offices have been willing to marry homosexual couples – this is out of a total of 409 offices.
The Civil Union Amendment Bill was proposed by Deirdre Carter, Deputy Secretary-General of the Congress of the People (Cope).
Carter is known for spearheading bills considered by some to be controversial, such as the ‘Right to Die’ bill.
Although the Civil Union Amendment Bill has been adopted, it must still go through the process of being debated by the National Assembly, passed and signed off by the President before it can be officially implemented.