The Constitutional Court today confirmed that same-sex life partners must have the same inheritance rights as heterosexual couples.

The Court had been asked to confirm an earlier ruling on the case made by the Pretoria High Court in which it declared section 1(1) of the Intestate Succession Act to be unconstitutional as it does not provide for a permanent same-sex life partner to inherit automatically, as a heterosexual spouse would, when the other partner dies without a will.

The ruling dealt with the case of Henry Harrison Brooks (the deceased) and Mark Gory who were partners in a permanent, same-sex life partnership.

When Brooks died without a will, his parents claimed to be entitled to his assets as his heirs. Gory disputed this and took Brook’s parents to court to claim his late partner’s estate.

The Constitutional Court upheld the High Court’s finding regarding the unconstitutionality of section 1(1) and ordered that after the word “spouse”, wherever it appears in that section, the words “or partner in a permanent same-sex life partnership in which the partners have undertaken reciprocal duties of support” be included.

The Court also ordered the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development to pay Gory’s costs stating that “the State is responsible for section 1(1) of the Act remaining on the statute books in its unconstitutional form.”

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