In a surprising move, Vice President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has signed the Civil Union Act into law – finally legalising same-sex marriages in South Africa. “The bill was signed into law yesterday,” Malerato Sekha – presidency spokesperson – told Sapa.
The Act had been expected to be signed by President Mbeki, but the Vice President’s signature – in her role as Acting President in his absence – concludes the final step in placing the legislation into the statute books. Mbkei is not currently in the country.
Confusion reigns as to when same-sex couples will be able to use the law to marry. Concerns have been raised about the readiness of the Department of Home Affairs to marry couples under the new law.
According to Jacky Mashapu, Head of Communications for Department of Home Affairs, “All systems are go.” Mashapu told Mambaonline that workshops have been held for marriage officers in the employ of the department on the Civil Union Act.
He advised same-sex couples to go to the nearest Home Affairs from the 1st of December. “If you have the required documentation there is no reason that you will be turned away,” he said.
Moira de Swardt, who is an independent registered marriage officer under the existing Marriage Act – through the auspices of the Gay Christian Community Church – has however expressed concern that she needs to re-apply to be able to marry same-sex couples under the Civil Union Act.
“I feel that this is disgusting in view of the fact that when I applied through the Church I made if clear that this was my interest; so that I can marry gay people”, she says. “Now I find that I’m excluded by the Act – and they didn’t give us enough time and warning to be accredited.”
De Swardt says that, according the department, it will take her a minimum of four to five weeks to be accredited.