Cabinet assents to same-sex marriage Bill

The South African Cabinet has given the nod to the Civil Unions Bill—which effectively allows recognition of same-sex marriages and grants gay couples similar rights to heterosexual couples.

At a media conference at Parliament on Thursday, government spokesperson Themba Maseko said the Bill takes into account the Constitutional Court judgement that found that the common-law definition of marriage in the Marriage Act of 1961 was unconstitutional, “insofar as it failed to give the same status, benefits and responsibilities to same-sex unions that marriage accorded to heterosexual couples”.

Parliament was given until the end of the year to pass this legislation in terms of the court judgement. Maseko indicated that the Bill—which will complement the existing Marriage Act—will also provide for the recognition of domestic partnerships between adults “whether same or different sex who had not concluded a marriage or civil partnership”.

Asked if there were tensions in the Cabinet on the matter and whether it had taken note especially of African clergy in objecting to same-sex marriages involving men, Maseko said: “My understanding is that the issue of same-sex marriages is not only boys—but girls marrying girls.”

But he said there had been extensive discussion on the matter and he acknowledged that the issue may raise “a lot of emotion”.

He added that the Cabinet had to respect the Constitution, which had effectively imposed an order on Parliament to change the marriage law to comply with the Constitution.

“All South Africans should bear in mind the constitutional judgement on the matter,” he said.—I-Net Bridge

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