Mmusi Maimane in Monday’s TV debate with Wilmot James
Mmusi Maimane, the frontrunner in the race to lead the DA, appears to have a rather complicated perspective on homosexuality and LGBT rights.
A pastor and elder with Liberty Church, Maimane is in a race with Wilmot James to be elected as the head of the official opposition this weekend.
Thanks to a spate of recent interviews and a television debate with James on Monday night, Maimane’s views on LGBT equality have came to light and reveal a man seemingly conflicted between his liberal and Christian ideologies.
In a Q&A with the Sunday Times, the 34-year-old committed Christian affirmed his support for same-sex marriage, saying that it is a constitutional right. But he appeared to make a point of calling it a “civil union” and not marriage. (James expressed his complete support for same-sex marriage in the same Q&A.)
Maimane’s church is not in favour of marriage equality (and in fact sees homosexuals as sinners and equates them to alcoholics), a matter that he was questioned on during the television debate.
He explained the apparent contradiction by saying that, “Our church does not prescribe the laws to the country, its government. I don’t agree with everything that is said in our church, but the right exists for them to say that.”
In an interview with Business Day, Maimane clarified that he doesn’t actually believe that gay marriages are real marriages. “I still hold the view that marriage and civil unions are distinct,” he said. Business Day also reported that’s he’s personally preached that marriage is between a man and a woman.
In the same interview he stated that he does not hold his church’s view that homosexuality is a sin and that “one can no more choose his or her sexual orientation than their eye colour or place of birth.”
He went on to add that, “There is still far too much ostracisation and judgement of homosexuals in the church, and indeed in many faiths. Doctrine is slowly evolving to be more accepting and inclusive, but it is taking too long in many cases.”
All well and good, but in a sermon last year Maimane appeared to suggest that gays and lesbians (and Muslims) are indeed sinners who can be healed through the church.
“Because, you know what, I am a sinner. So I guess we can be friends, right? But I don’t want to just be their friend ’cause I want them to think, I’m like, they are like a project. I want them to sincerely know I’m their friend. So, you know what I am most grateful of, is that in my friendship circles there are Muslims, there are gay people — because I believe that is what God has called us to do. I take the verse that Jesus says, ‘I didn’t come for the well but I came for the sick’. I take that quite seriously,” said Maimane.
He also stated in the television debate that while he personally backs marriage equality (or more accurately civil unions) and that “gay rights must be protected”, he would consider it a matter, like the death penalty, that could be voted on by the public through a referendum, if South Africans demanded it.
James responded that equality and human rights cannot be conditional on the public’s views, and stated that “Mr Maimane doesn’t understand our Constitution at all.”
If a referendum on same-sex marriage were to be held, South African gays and lesbians would likely lose their right to marriage. A 2013 survey found that 62% of South Africans see homosexuality as morally unacceptable.
Watch Maimane and James talk about rights and the Constitution below (from about 7 minutes into the video).