Now is the time to speak out on the Civil Union Act! The LGBTQ community has another opportunity to ensure that same-sex couples are not discriminated against by Home Affairs.
Parliament has called for a second round of public comments on the Civil Union Amendment Bill.
The bill aims to remove Section 6 of the Civil Union Act which allows Home Affairs officials to refuse to marry same-sex couples on the grounds of their “conscience, religion [or] belief”.
The bill, which was introduced by Cope MP Deidre Carter in January, was earlier deemed “desirable” by the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs in Parliament. This followed an initial round of public comments and a presentation in Parliament in August.
Despite the matter affecting the LGBTQ community at large, a paltry 86 written submissions were made in favour of the amendment (14 comments were submitted against the amendment).
Roché Kester, Cope’s Media Correspondent in Parliament, told MambaOnline that the new call for comments is an entirely new process. This means that those who made submissions in the previous round should resubmit them in a new email (not simply forward their previous email).
In addition to the written submissions, the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs has also called on interested parties to apply to make oral submissions on the matter. Details are still to be confirmed but it is likely that these will be made in Parliament.
Carter introduced the bill after receiving numerous complaints that same-sex couples had been humiliated and degraded after being turned away from Home Affairs offices as there were no marriage officers willing to solemnise their marriages.
The Department of Home Affairs has confirmed that a large number of its officers have opted out of marrying same-sex couples and that many branches do not offer the service at all. This effectively means that same-sex couples are not getting equal services and are being treated like second class citizens.
While the Civil Union Amendment Bill seems to have widespread support among MPs, including reportedly being backed by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, Kester said it is important that the LGBTQ community make its voice heard on the matter. If not, this could suggest to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs that the issue is not of much concern to the community.
Antone can make submissions on the proposed bill and / or request to make an oral presentation, whether they be individuals or acting on behalf of organisations.
The submission should include your name (and organisation, if applicable) and contact details. You can explain why you are interested in the Civil Union Amendment Bill (B11-2018), and say if you support the bill and removing Section 6 from the Civil Union Act. You should explain your reasons for this. You can read the bill here and find more information that you can use in your submission on the issue here.
Submissions, requests to make an oral presentation and queries can be emailed to Mr Eddy Mathonsi at firstname.lastname@example.org by no later than Tuesday, 23 October 2018 at 16:00.
You can also sign a petition started by Igor Scheurkogel, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Mr Gay World, calling on the government to amend the Civil Union Act.