South Africa passes bill that bars marriage officers from objecting to same-sex weddings

LGBT+ South Africans wave Pride flags at Durban Pride Festival. (RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images)

Lawmakers in the upper house of South Africa’s parliament passed a bill Wednesday (July 1) that bars marriage officers from objecting to marrying same-sex couples.

South Africa remains an outlier in the patchwork of policies and laws in Africa wired to erase or persecute LGBT+ lives. As much as change overall in the continent has been sluggish for some countries, gay sex remains overwhelmingly illegal in the majority of African nations.

But the latest stride South Africa has taken in advancing LGBT+ rights is a simple one – strengthening its 2006 legislation that enshrined marriage equality, Times Live reported.

South Africa: Upper house passes bill barring marriage officers from rejecting same-sex married hopefuls. 

The National Council of Provinces passed the Civil Union Amendment Bill that was drafted by lawmakers to repeal repeal section six of the Civil Union Act. The section enabled marriage officers to object to solemnise a same-sex marriage on the grounds of religion.

If an officer wished to object, they would have to inform the the home affairs minister. But local activists were quick to flank section six for failing to conditionally fix problems pointed by the Constitutional Court justices in 2005.

The section has long thrown spikes against LGBT+ coupes seeking to marry, as as much as marriage equality has remained legal for years, officers have snarled marital hopefuls by simply objecting to their unions.

Speaking during the Wednesday sitting, chairperson of the select committee on justice Shahidabibi Shaik explained that section six has long chaffed with various sections of the constitution. Section 15 for example, she said, includes the right to freedom of religious thought, belief, or opinion.

While section 9 (c) protects South African citizens from being unfairly discriminated against based on beliefs. Nevertheless, as much as removing section six impacts these two constitutional sections, Shaik said, she urged the National Council of Provinces to accept the bill without changing it.

“Those in favour of the repeal of section six argued that section six is problematic as it allows the marriage office to impose a moral judgment towards [same-sex couples],” said Shaikh.

It comes only days afters the upper house of the Gabon parliament, the Senate, voted to decriminalise homosexuality.

Lawmakers in the lower house of the west coast central African country voted to reverse a law criminalising same-sex relations that was only introduced in 2019. It carried a penalty of up to six months in prison as well as a fine of 5 million CFA francs (£6,393).

 


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