Engaged: Donovan Wynne and Michael Cronje
Two engaged gay Port Elizabeth men were refused their right to marry after one of the city’s Home Affairs offices said that none of its marriage officers were willing to marry them.
Michael Cronje and Donovan Wynne approached the North End, Port Elizabeth Home Affairs last month to enquire about getting married.
Wynne told the Daily Dispatch that the official he was dealing with became “blunt to the point of rudeness” when she discovered that the marriage was to be between two men.
She told them that the office does not “do” gay marriages.
They were informed that all available marriage officers in the branch refuse to officiate same-sex marriages on the basis of their religious or cultural beliefs.
“We understand that. But we also have rights – which include getting married to one another. This is a government institution and it needs to ensure our constitutional rights are met,” Cronje told the newspaper.
Speaking to Mambaonline, Cronje explained that not only did the Home Affairs office refuse to provide them with a marriage officer but they were told that the office’s data capturers would also refuse to register the marriage.
“I can respect the feelings of the marriage officers,” said Cronje, “but that’s not the main issue. The main issue is the data capturing and the rude attitude. We can’t even register the marriage.”
He said that they had been contacted by a human rights organisation to take the matter further and that they will lodge an official complaint with the department.
In the meantime, the two men have now chosen to get married by a private marriage officer and the happy day has been set for the 1st of October. Nevertheless, the recent events have left a bitter taste in Cronje’s mouth.
“We don’t even want to talk about it anymore,” he said. “It’s no longer about love and commitment it’s now about fighting for our rights.”
Same-sex marriage was legalised in South Africa in 2006 with the passing of the Civil Union Act. The law does allow for Home Affairs marriage officers to opt out of marrying same-sex partners if they have received exemption in writing from the Minister of Home Affairs.
It is not clear if the marriage officers have obtained the relevant exemption. It is also generally accepted that the Department of Home Affairs is still obligated to ensure that there are marriage officers and staff available to officiate and register same-sex marriages.