Relaymedia

South Africa Constitutional Court Affirms Gay Marriage Legislation

Last week, The Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, thus banning the current registration. The court ordered the parliament to amend the marriage law within a yea
( [email protected] ) Dec 05, 2005 01:14 PM EST

Last week, The Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, thus banning the current registration. The court ordered the parliament to amend the marriage law within a year to meet the decision.

The constitution of South Africa, adopted after the end of apartheid in 1994, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, the government has opposed for years to extend definition to include same-sex couples.

The current legal definitions, which state marriage as union between a man and a woman, were ruled by the court as unconstitutional. Judge Albie Sachs said that the definitions "are accordingly inconsistent with sections ... of the Constitution to the extent that they make no provision for same-sex couples to enjoy the status, entitlements and responsibilities they accord to heterosexual couples."

The court wants the legal definition to be changed to a "union between two persons".

The affirmation will place South Africa as the only nation next to Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain that has allowed gay marriages nationwide. Also it places South Africa as the first nation to do so on a largely conservative African continent.

The case was first brought to the Supreme Court of Appeal by a lesbian couple and the court ruled that the current law discriminates homosexuals. However, the Department of Home Affairs went to the Constitutional Court arguing that the law could only be changed by the parliament.

Reuters news agency cites Keketso Maema, a lawyer for the Lesbian and Gay Equality project, saying that he was disappointed that the court did not immediately change the legislation for same-sex marriages.

"It's a bit disappointing. It feels like it's one step forward and still another one step backwards," he said.

BBC news reports that several church groups have expressed that the issue should be placed to referendum, which they expects most South Africans to oppose a gay marriage legislation.

According to the New York Times article, the African Christian Democratic Party said through a spokesman that Parliament should amend the constitution to overturn the court's decision, arguing that "studies of previous civilizations reveal than when a society strays from the sexual ethic of marriage, it deteriorates and eventually disintegrates."

"It's not one of our political fault lines," said Steven E. Friedman, a top political analyst at Johannesburg's Center for Political Studies, referring to the “importance” of gay marriage controversy in the political arena. "The major issue in this society is race. That's why people join political parties. The party of social conservatism is the African Christian Democratic Party, which wins 1 percent of the vote. And that's the group of people who feel that this justifies amending the constitution."