The lower house of parliament (National Assembly) in South Africa has voted for a historic change to civil union laws.
South Africa has recognized civil unions since 2006 but today’s changes will mean that officials will not be able to refuse to marry same-sex couples on the basis of their ‘conscience, religion [or] belief’.
Cope (Congress Of The People party) MP Deidre Carter introduced the Civil Union Amendment Bill in January with the parliament’s Portfolio Committee passing it in November.
During the debate, Deidre Carter, said LGBTI people suffered greatly during South Africa’s apartheid era. She told the parliament they ‘suffered a
particularly harsh fate and were branded as criminals and rejected by society as outcasts’.
‘I received complaints that couples were being turned away from a number of Home Affairs offices as there were no marriage officers that were
prepared to solemnise same-sex marriages,’ she said.
‘My investigations revealed that this tendency was in fact more widespread than initially thought. At the time, the Minister advised me that nearly half of its designated marriage officers had been exempted from solemnizing same-sex marriages.’
Carter argued that refusing to marry a same-sex couple was a ‘limitation (that) cannot be justified in an open and democratic society’.
Following today’s vote the National Council of Provinces (upper house) will also vote on the amended bill. Should it be successful in the NCOP, President Cyril Ramaphosa will then sign it into law.