NCOP passes bill barring marriage officers from objecting to same-sex marriages

01 July 2020 - 14:18 By aphiwe deklerk
The NCOP passed the Civil Union Amendment Bill, which means marriage officers can no longer object to marrying same-sex couples.
The NCOP passed the Civil Union Amendment Bill, which means marriage officers can no longer object to marrying same-sex couples.
Image: dolgachov/123RF

The National Council of Provinces on Wednesday passed the Civil Union Amendment Bill which bars marriage officers from objecting to marrying same-sex couples.

During a sitting of the NCOP most parties who participated voted in favour, with 33 votes. 

This means the bill is one step closer to becoming law after it was also approved by the National Assembly in 2018. The only step remaining now is for President Cyril Ramaphosa to assent to it.

The purpose of the bill was to repeal section six of the Civil Union Act of 2006 which allowed for a marriage officer to inform the home affairs minister of their objection to solemnise a civil union between same-sex couples on the grounds of conscience, religion and belief.

The repeal came after criticism of section six, which meant the Civil Union Act of 2006 did not effectively fix constitutionality problems flagged by the Constitutional Court back in 2005.

Its critics had problems with the large number of marriage officers who were objecting to marrying same-sex couples, which effectively meant that despite same-sex marriages being legalised, a large number of people wanting to get married were still being turned away.

Speaking during the sitting, chairperson of the select committee on justice Shahidabibi Shaik, said the committee took a resolution to allow for further submissions on the bill after it was initially passed by the National Assembly, after legal advice by parliament. 

She said those who were opposed to the repeal of section six of the act argued that section 15 of the constitution, which includes the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion, and Section 9 (c), the right to not be unfairly discriminated against because of one's belief, were directly affected by the removal of section six.

Shaikh said the opponents further argued about the human dignity of all people in terms of section 10 of the constitution. 

“Those in favour of the repeal of section six argued that section six is problematic as it allows the marriage office to impose a moral judgment towards [same-sex couples],” said Shaikh.

She said the committee agreed to the repeal of section six and recommended that the NCOP accept the bill without changing it.


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