South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has passed a new law that will help protect same-sex marriage within the country. The Civil Union Amendment Bill will bar officiating officers from refusing to preside over same-sex marriages.
In 2006, the country passed the The Civil Union Bill legalizing same-sex marriage. With this bill, the country became the first on the continent to legalize same-sex marriage. However, a particular clause within the bill allowed officiating officers to refuse to marry same-sex couples on the grounds of conscience, religion, and belief. As a result, many officiating officer simply refused to marry same-sex couples.
“Section 6 was controversial because it permitted state marriage officers to refuse to do their job if – for whatever reason – they did not want to solemnize same-sex marriages,” constitutional law expert Pierre De Vos said.
“To understand its full impact, imagine a similar provision allowing civil servants not to solemnise interracial marriages or marriages of people of a faith different to that of the civil servant.”
While the newly passed amendment received praised, some South African citizens felt that it was not enough. Under South African legislature, same-sex marriage is considered a "union" and does not have the same legal protections of a marriage.
Moving forward, the law will undergo a 24 month transitional period. During the transitional period, the Department of Home Affairs will "train those officials that had previously been granted an exemption by the minister."
“During this transitional period, a marriage officer, other than those granted exemption, must be available to solemnise a civil union at every Department of Home Affairs office to ensure that same-sex couples are no longer turned away,” Spokesperson Thiruna Naidoo said.
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