High Court rules church’s anti-queer policy unlawful

The Pretoria high court on Friday morning overturned a decision by the Dutch Reformed Church forcing queer clergy to be celibate and barring the church’s clergy from officiating same-sex marriages.

The decision was challenged through legal action instituted by 11 of the church’s members.

In an initial statement by the group, one of its members, Laurie Gaum, said: “We believe this case provides a unique opportunity to move the stalemate regarding [queer] rights and religious denominations forward in South Africa and on the continent.”

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian, following the judgment, Gaum said: “We’re amazed and obviously joyous. It’s fantastic. We’ve come a long way and here we are. We made it.”

At the church’s 2004 general synod, it took the decision that all in the church, regardless of sexual orientation, were full members. Its 2007 general synod meeting, however, saw the decision taken that gay ministers would have to remain celibate.

In 2015, in a move that surprised many, the church announced its decision to approve same-sex unions and also allow for the ordaining of ministers who identified as homosexual. The decision was taken after a 64% vote in favour of it was taken at the synod.

André Bartlett, author of the 2017 book Weerlose Weerstand, which documents the church’s history with “the gay debate”, calls the 2015 decision “a definite moment of hope”.

The moment, however, proved to be a fleeting one as the progressive decision was overturned during a special synod meeting in 2016.

A statement by the church following the decision, read: “Marriage was instituted by God as a sacred and lifelong union between one man and one woman and that any sexual intercourse outside such a solid formal marital relationship does not meet Christian guidelines.”

Following the judgment, Gaum added: “We know that the journey continues in the sense that there will still be backlash along the way. But, you know, so far so good. It’s these small battles that turn into victories and ultimately build a better future individuals, institutions and society as a whole.”

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Carl Collison
Carl Collison
Carl Collison is a freelance journalist who focuses primarily on covering queer-related issues across Africa

Labour minister paints four bleak scenarios for the UIF if...

The fund has been selling assets to make Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme payouts

AG’s report reveals the municipalities where money goes to waste

Municipalities are in complete disarray, with many of them flagged by the auditor-general for deliberate lack of accountability and tolerance for transgressions by political and administrative leadership while billions are squandered.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday