Fired Cape Town lesbian minister goes to Constitutional Court

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Ecclesia de Lange

In what could be a landmark development, a lesbian Western Cape Methodist minister fired for marrying a woman is taking her five-year-long battle for equality to the Constitutional Court.

Ecclesia de Lange was dismissed by the Methodist Church of South Africa (MCSA) in January 2010 after she announced her intention to marry her partner at the time.

De Lange has now confirmed through her Facebook support page that she is seeking justice in the country’s highest court and that she filed an application with the Constitutional Court in December.

“[We’d] like to inform you where we are in the process of the Constitutional Court (CC) application. The MCSA has submitted their answering affidavit to the CC. We now await the enrolment of the case by the Chief Justice on the roll of the Constitutional Court or such other directive as the learned Justice may deem fit to issue,” a post on the page stated on Monday.

De Lange’s earlier attempts at mediation to resolve the issue and subsequent legal challenges in the Western Cape High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeals in Bloemfontein have all failed.

It appears that the judiciary has so far been unwilling to take a firm stand in the case which controversially pits issues of equality against claims of protecting freedom of religion.

If the Constitutional Court agrees to hear De Lange’s case, it could set a precedent in limiting the use of religious freedom as a basis on which to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

The MCSA argues that the former minister’s dismissal was justified because she broke the church’s rules by marrying a woman. It says that although the issue of same-sex marriage is still under debate in the church, it only currently recognises marriage between a man and a woman.

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