Mmusi Maimane forced to defend views on gay rights


Mmusi Maimane

The DA’s new leader, Mmusi Maimane, has been forced to defend his position on LGBT rights.

Maimane’s views on LGBT equality and same-sex marriage have been questioned after it was recently revealed that he is a pastor at an anti-gay church.

His Liberty Church views gays and lesbians as sick sinners and marriage as only being possible between a man and woman.

While Maimane has insisted that he does not personally share these views, he did in at least one 2014 sermon appear to suggest that gay people, along with Muslims, are sinners who can be saved through Christianity.

In a recent televised debate, Maimane asserted his support for same-sex marriage but also said that, if the public demanded it, he would agree to a referendum on the issue.

On Tuesday, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini claimed in Parliament that Maimane does not support LGBT rights and asked him to explain his stance.

The question was undeniably opportunistic. The ANC-led government has a particularly spotty record when it comes to responding to LGBT abuses in Africa and in effectively tackling hate crimes at home.

After being accused of misleading Parliament by the DA, Bathabile told the media on Wednesday that she stood by her statement, citing last week’s Mambaonline report.

“To confirm the veracity of my statement, I refer you to an article posted on Mambaonline which outlines the views of the DA’s leader on the matter. This article cites a sermon delivered by the DA leader who is a pastor at the Liberty Church,” said Bathabile.

“The article quotes Mr Maimane as suggesting gays, lesbians and muslims as sinners or ill who can be healed by the church. This is the source of what I said. It is up to the DA and Mr Maimane to clarify this issue. It smacks of homophobia and religious bigotry.”

Maimane told eNCA in response: “I support gay rights. I’ve always upheld… I’ve always believed that gay South Africans must be entitled to civil unions – to the rights that any married heterosexual couple must have.”

During Wednesday’s highly publicised #AskMmusi Twitter Town Hall session, the topic once again came up. Maimane was asked by Anna-Marie de Vos (@kraaibos): “What is your personal opinion on homosexuality?”

He replied: “I support the rights of gay people as espoused in the Constitution.”

While the DA’s rising star insists that he backs LGBT equality and same-sex civil unions, he doesn’t appear to believe that these unions should be defined as marriage, fully equivalent to heterosexual marriage. It’s a widely held view among many Christians.

In an interview with Business Day he asserted “that marriage and civil unions are distinct”. In other words, gay couples are not deserving of full marriage equality. This remains a contentious issue that he needs to be called out on and asked to explain.

Now in the full glare of the spotlight, Maimane will find it increasingly difficult to maintain his identity as pastor of an openly homophobic church separate from that as the leader of the liberal opposition party. A party that’s actively courted the LGBT vote.

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