It’s been reported that South Africa’s first legal same-sex wedding took place in George, in the Western Cape, on Friday – the day after the highly controversial Civil Union Act came into effect.
The law makes South Africa the first country in Africa and the fifth in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.
Vernon Gibbs and Tony Halls, who run a guest lodge and wildlife rescue centre, exchanged vows and wedding rings wearing their game-ranger outfits at the Home Affairs office. The wedding was attended by friends, the media and the curious. It was solemnised by Petro Kruger, a Home Affairs marriage officer.
The two men decided to take a double-barrel surname combining their original surnames: Halls-Gibbs for Tony and Gibbs-Halls for Vernon.
While those who wish to marry under the new law have been told by Home Affairs that they need to book their ceremony in advance like anyone else, the Halls-Gibbs – who have been together for nine years – were determined to marry as soon as possible. Luckily the Home Affairs office in George had no bookings for that day.
The men, who married on World Aids Day, made a point of noting the day: Vernon Halls-Gibbs told the SABC that, “This marriage… is for all HIV/Aids sufferers and gay people who have experienced discrimination.”
He further added that, “I just have one message I would like to give to everybody – that we are just two men who love each other and who have loved each other for a long time.”
According to Jacky Mashapu, head of communications for the Department of Home Affairs, George was also the site of the second same-sex wedding that afternoon.