The Cape Argus reports that seventeen minor South African churches have been given the go-ahead to perform same-sex marriages.

According to the newspaper, the list – provided by the Department of Home Affairs – excludes the major churches, such as the Anglican Church, the Baptist Church, the Presbyterian Church and the Catholic Church – which have all barred their ministers from playing any part in officiating gay unions.

Religious institutions are not forced to conduct same-sex marriages under the Civil Union Act, but may choose to do so after applying to Home Affairs.

While the 17 churches have been approved by the department, their individual ministers must still take an exam before conducting any gay marriage ceremonies.

Concern has been raised however that Home Affairs has been slow in dispatching study material for the exams. Some ministers have expressed frustration that they have still not received their study packs despite having applied for the exam months ago.

Officials at the Department of Home Affairs are automatically empowered and expected to conduct same-sex marriages on request. Should an individual have any objection to doing so they must request exemption from the Minister of Home Affairs in writing.

The Civil Union Act, legalising same-sex marriage in South Africa, was made law on December 1 last year.

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