'Marriage' stays in Civil Unions Bill

Religious groups opposed to the term “marriage” in the Civil Unions Bill are set to lose their battle after the National Assembly’s home affairs committee adopted the African National Congress’s (ANC) amended version of the Bill on Wednesday.

“Civil-union partner means a spouse in a marriage or a partner in a civil partnership,” reads the amended Bill, in defiance of religious groups’ demands.

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) MP Steve Swartz said he was disappointed the ANC ignored calls for the removal of any reference to the term “marriage” in the Bill.

“The ACDP is opposed to the inclusion of the term in the amended draft as we believe marriage is a sacred institution that should not be included in this kind of a law,” he said.

However, the ACDP succeeded in having a section of the Bill removed that deals with the rights of unmarried partners who live together.

According to the committee chairperson, Patrick Chauke, that section of the Bill will now be accommodated in future laws.

Chauke, an ANC MP, denied his party exploited its majority status to push through a Bill that fails to accommodate public concerns over the proposed law.

“This was a very emotive issue to deal with as it touched on people’s religious beliefs; even us in the ANC were divided,” he said, arguing that in the end MPs had a duty to strike a balance between the Constitutional Court judgement and people’s views.

Parliament is working to meet a Constitutional Court deadline of December 1 to correct what it ruled in December last year was an unconstitutional definition of marriage in legislation.

The committee will vote on the Bill on Thursday before paving the way for its consideration in the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces during this session.—Sapa

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