Turned away: Donovan Wynne and Michael Cronje
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has slammed Home Affairs over recent anti-gay incidents, describing it as “the Department of Homophobic Affairs”.
In a statement, DA Shadow Minister of Home Affairs Annette Lovemore accused the department of failing to acknowledge that the rights of gay and lesbian South Africans are enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
“The Department of Home Affairs has been extremely tardy in realising this, and can, quite justifiably, be referred to as the Department of Homophobic Affairs,” she said.
Lovemore commented on a number of incidents that have come across her desk in the last few weeks.
Late last month, a gay Port Elizabeth couple, Michael Cronje and Donovan Wynne, 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.
The couple have since resolved the issue with Home Affairs, which has apologised and promised to ensure that officers will be deployed to the Eastern Cape, when required, to ensure that same-sex couples can be married.
Lovemore also mentioned an incident in which a gay couple were unable to register themselves as the parents of twin boys born through a surrogate mother because the department’s systems cannot accept the identity numbers of two same-sex parents.
This despite the Children’s Act of 2005 stating that “any child born of a surrogate mother in accordance with a valid agreement is for all purposes the child of the commissioning parent or parents from the moment of its birth”.
According to Lovemore, the surrogate had to be registered as the mother in order to obtain an initial birth certificate. The second partner then had to “adopt” the boys from the surrogate mother.
Finally, Lovemore revealed that when a gay man recently tried to get a copy of his civil union certificate from Home Affairs, he discovered that the forms to apply for the certificate only allow for the entry of two names – that of the husband and that of the wife.
“Why should a gay man who is part of a civil union have to decide whether he should be classified as the husband or the wife?” asked Lovemore.
“The homophobia implied by the department’s failure to update its systems and forms to cater for civil unions is clearly contrary to Constitutional imperatives. At a personal level, it is an insult to all gays and lesbians,” she said.
Lovemore added that she has brought up these issues with the Minster of Home Affairs. “The department says: ‘we care!’ We say: ‘prove it!’ she said.