Muhammad Buckus and Kyle Pillay legally tied the knot on Thursday at Home Affairs (Pic: Gay and Lesbian Network)
Same-sex couple Muhammad Buckus and Kyle Pillay have finally tied the knot after a year of upsetting delays and excuses by the Department of Home Affairs in Richards Bay.
They were joined by friends who came to witness their Civil Union marriage which was officiated by a Home Affairs marriage officer.
The couple have been together for about five years. They exchanged vows at a Hindu ceremony a year ago but wanted to make it legal through the department.
Buckus and Pillay were, however, repeatedly turned away by Home Affairs officials who offered an array of excuses. These included running out of marriage registration documents and claiming that there were no marriage officers willing to marry same-sex couples at the branch.
They reached out to the Gay and Lesbian Network (GLN), a registered non-profit organisation based in Pietermaritzburg, for advice and assistance. GLN contacted the Home Affairs area manager and also tried to source a private Civil Union marriage officer in Richards Bay, to no avail.
It was only as a result of media exposure about their plight that the couple finally got an appointment to register their marriage on Thursday.
“I feel at ease now that we are legally married. It means a lot to us since we have been trying for the past year. Our mind and soul is at peace,” said Pillay. “It was very disheartening when they told us there are no marriage officers and turned us away but now that we are registered we are happy – it’s like a dream come true.”
Pillay, who thanked the Gay and Lesbian Network for its support, urged the LGBTI community to “not ever give up, always be strong, have faith in yourself and your path will be cleared of all obstacles.”
Buckus revealed that they would be celebrating their legal wedding with a dinner with family and friends.
“We feel we [are now] part of the country and citizens to legally have our marriage recognised. We are relieved that the frustration is over,” said Buckus.
The couple condemned “the poor treatment we received at the Department of Home Affairs, making us run up and down and giving so many excuses in denying our rights as a couple to marry.”
Anthony Waldhausen, director of GLN, congratulated Buckus and Pillay on their legal marriage. “Despite their ordeal at the hands of the Department of Home Affairs, I believe it has made them stronger together as a couple and wish them all the best together.”
He further demanded, “that the Department of Home Affairs issue the couple a public apology.”
State-employed marriage officers in South Africa are currently still allowed to opt-out of solemnising same-sex unions. Human rights organisations recently called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to sign the Civil Union Amendment Bill into law which would remove this discriminatory provision from the law.