Ecclesia de Lange’s case will be heard by the Constitutional Court
A landmark case pitting faith-based discrimination against the equal rights of LGBT people will finally be heard by the Constitutional Court.
After almost five years of legal struggle, fired lesbian Methodist minister Ecclesia de Lange will present her case to the highest court in the land on 28 August.
De Lange was dismissed by the Methodist Church of South Africa in January 2010 after she announced her intention to marry her female partner at the time.
Her earlier attempts at mediation to regain her position and subsequent legal challenges in the Western Cape High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeals in Bloemfontein have all failed.
The Constitutional Court’s decision is likely to have major and long-standing repercussions on LGBT equality in South Africa. The court could confirm that religious belief is not a basis on which to discriminate against gays and lesbians, or otherwise possibly agree that this is allowed.
“This is probably the most important case based on sexual orientation that has entered the South African social and legal landscape and as such marks a watershed case for constitutional principles,” said De Lange’s legal team in a statement.
They explained that while she has been campaigning to enforce her personal rights “against the might of a historically established religious institution” her case also means that “the rights of the very marginalised and discriminated-against LGBT citizens are at stake…”
De Lange’s legal team have called on LGBT organisations to urgently consider joining the case as amici curiae (friends of the court) in the interests of justice. They warned that the LGBT community must make its voice heard in the matter considering “the detrimental impact and consequences” an adverse decision by the court could have.
“This has been a journey that has taught me many lessons,” De Lange told Mambaonline. “It has empowered me to be more objective and at times I have allowed myself to feel the pain and disappointment caused by the treatment by the very community that I thought would hold me.”
She added: “I also know that in the eyes of the church I have become an irritation that some wish will just disappear. But my life and my journey have taught me that an injustice to one is an injustice to all.”
The Methodist Church has argued that De Lange’s dismissal was justified because she broke its 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.
De Lange’s legal team can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.