Concerns have been raised about the process of passing the new Civil Unions Bill through parliament in time for the December 1 deadline.
While regional public submissions to comment on the bill have been tentatively scheduled to begin in Soweto on 19 September, as of today, the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs has still not received approval from parliament to confirm the submission dates.
This gives very little time for organisations or individuals to be given the schedule – should the submission hearings even go ahead.
According to MR Mankge, the Committee Secretary, the schedule cannot be released as, at this stage, the dates have not yet been approved. He said however that the committee was “strongly pushing” parliament to get clarity on the matter.
There is concern among outraged activists about a scenario in which the bill is passed in parliament without adequate public comment on the new legislation. Others have expressed doubt that parliament will be able to meet the December deadline imposed by the Constitutional Court, which would result in an automatic change to the Marriage Act, thus legalising same sex marriage – something most activists would welcome.
Most gay organisations have rejected the bill as unconstitutional and separatist, calling instead for same-sex marriage to be incorporated within the existing Marriage Act.
Mankge has told Mambaonline that he is confident that public hearings in parliament will talke place on October 12 and 13. He has asked that anyone that wishes to make a submission should contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and via fax on 021 403 2808.
Members of the Joint Working Group (JWG) – a coalition of South African LGBTI activist and support groups are preparing written submissions, a letter writing campaign and even pickets outside parliament to convince government to abandon the bill and instead adapt the Marriage Act.
To view the proposed bill, click here (PDF document).
Click here for more information on how you can play a part in the letter-writing and petition campaign.