'Today we celebrate victory and draw strength': here's what you need to know about the new marriage bill

03 July 2020 - 13:36 By Unathi Nkanjeni
State marriage officers and magistrates will be prohibited from refusing to solemnise a civil union between same-sex couples.
State marriage officers and magistrates will be prohibited from refusing to solemnise a civil union between same-sex couples.
Image: dolgachov/123RF

Same-sex couples will soon have more rights following the passing of a new marriage bill by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). 

This week, the NCOP passed the Civil Union Amendment Bill, which prohibits marriage officials from discriminating against same-sex couples because of their personal beliefs.

Here is what you need to know:

The bill's aim

During a virtual sitting on Wednesday, the NCOP passed the bill  after it garnered 33 votes from parties which voted in favour of it.

The aim of the bill is to repeal section 6 of the Civil Union Act of 2006 which allows a marriage officer to inform the home affairs minister of their objection to officiate same-sex unions on the grounds of conscience, religion or belief.

This means state marriage officers and magistrates will be prohibited from refusing to solemnise a civil union between same-sex couples.

Equality for all

Chairperson of the select committee on justice Shahidabibi Shaik said the bill would afford same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.

“The select committee received a briefing from a parliamentary legal adviser. Following this briefing the committee took a resolution to involve the public in the matter and called for submissions on the bill.

“We received about 325 submissions from individuals and organisations. There were those who opposed the repeal of section 6 of the Civil Union Act and there were those in support,” said Shaik.

Victory for the LGBTQI+ community

The LGBTQI+ non-governmental organisation Triangle Project welcomed the decision.

The organisation says the removal of the clause is a victory and worth celebrating.

“Such a discriminatory provision has no place in our constitutional democracy. The removal of the clause is a victory for the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of one's sexual orientation and for every person's rights to equality and dignity,” said the organisation.

The organisation said for the past few years it has made joint submissions with Lawyers for Human Rights and the Women's Legal Centre in Cape Town in support of the bill since it was first published for comment by the National Assembly in 2018.

“Changing laws, policies and practices that discriminate against LGBTQI+ people on the basis of our sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics require persistence through many battles over the years and decades. Today we celebrate victory and draw strength and hope to continue the struggle against all injustice,” the organisation said.

Constitutional rights

In a statement, the EFF also welcomed the bill, saying it entrenches the value of SA’s constitution and protects the rights of those who have historically been denied the constitutional right to marry whom they choose.


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