The Department of Home Affairs in Port Elizabeth has again refused to marry a gay couple. Outrageously, it’s at least the third time it’s done so in as many years.
The PE Herald newspaper reported on Friday that Kevin de Lange (42) and Cobus Steyn (43), who planned to marry on 24 June, had been unceremoniously turned away by the city’s Home Affairs officials.
De Lange attempted to make an appointment on Wednesday for the marriage but the couple’s plans were scuppered when officials discovered he was going to be marrying a man.
“The woman, who was with another official, then went to a back office. When she came out, she simply told us that she was sorry but they did not conduct same-sex marriages on the premises, only heterosexual marriages,” De Lange told the newspaper.
The official then handed him a piece of paper with the name of a minister who would marry them for a fee of R650.
An outraged de Lange says that while he can afford the R650, there is a principle at stake.
“I am a taxpayer and the last thing I expected was for the department to refuse to marry us. That’s quite simply discrimination.”
Under the Civil Unions Act, Home Affairs marriage officers can apply to the minister to be exempted from conducting same-sex marriages, but the department must supply an alternative official who will marry gay couples in such cases.
It’s not the first time that the city’s Home Affairs officials have refused to service gay couples. The Herald said that two other men, Leonard and Ruan Kriel de Andrade, had to marry privately after they were also turned away last year.
In 2011, Michael Cronje and Donovan Wynne made headlines when they were told by the North End, Port Elizabeth Home Affairs that the office did not “do” gay marriages.
Despite a personal apology to the couple by the Home Affairs Eastern Cape Provincial Manager at the time and her promise to ensure that a gay-friendly marriage officer would be made available, it appears not much has changed.