Interested parties have been asked to comment on a Bill to amend the Civil Union Act to stop Home Affairs marriage officers from discriminating against same-sex couples.
In January, Cope MP Deidre Carter tabled the landmark Bill in Parliament to repeal the provision in the Civil Union Act that allows Home Affairs marriage officers to refuse to marry lesbian and gay couples.
The clause, Section 6 of the Civil Union Act, has long been identified by LGBTQ activists as an unconstitutional and discriminatory flaw in the law that legalised same-sex marriage in South Africa in 2006.
The provision allows marriage officers employed by the state to refuse to solemnise civil unions if they personally object to same-sex relationships on the grounds of their “conscience, religion [or] belief”.
This has resulted in many same-sex couples being turned away from Home Affairs branches that have no officials willing to marry them. Mambaonline has for years reported on the humiliating and degrading treatment received by these couples.
In its explanatory notes, the Bill points out that there is rightly no provision in the law for Home Affairs marriage officers who are Christian to refuse to marry Muslim couples, or those who have racist beliefs to refuse to marry an interracial couple.
“In the context of South African same-sex partnerships, many same-sex couples may be obliged to have their marriages conducted by civil servants because the religious bodies they attend are unwilling to do so,” reads the Bill.
“The prevalence of homophobia in our society could mean that a large number of civil servants will avail themselves of the statutory right to lodge objections, resulting in same-sex marriage becoming available in theory only, especially in rural areas,” it states.
Carter’s Bill to amend the Civil Union Act and repeal Section 6 was published in the Government Gazette on 1 March.
Interested parties and institutions are now invited to submit written representations on the proposed contents of the Bill to the Speaker of the National Assembly within 30 days of the publication of the notice.
Representations can be delivered to the Speaker, New Assembly Building, Parliament Street, Cape Town; mailed to the Speaker, P O Box 15, Cape Town 8000 or emailed to email@example.com and copied to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read / download the Bill here.