Earlier this week, the National Assembly officially adopted the Civil Union Amendment Bill, which means Home Affairs marriage officers have to officiate same-sex marriages, even if they object.
The Bill repeals section 6 of the Civil Union Act, which allows a marriage officer to inform the Minister that he or she objects to solemnising a civil union between persons of the same sex on the grounds of conscience, religion and belief. Reportedly, 88% of the 409 Home Affairs offices in South Africa did not serve same-sex couples.
The Bill was initially sponsored by COPE’s Deidre Carter, who said section 6 was a violation of human rights and our Constitution: “It touches upon the genesis of our constitutional order. It touches that which is most sacrosanct in our constitution, our Bill of Rights and the right to equality and dignity: that the state may not unfairly discriminate and that it has the responsibility to promote, respect and fulfil these rights.”
There are some controversial aspects of the new Bill, though: it states that the Home Affairs Department is allowed a 24-month “transitional period” to enable officers to be trained. This provision was met with fierce criticism from DA MP Hanif Hoosen: “Why should any civil servant have the right to pick and choose which law they want to follow. This is wrong. If you are an employee of the State, you must serve all citizens. What people do in their bedrooms is none of your business.”
Despite being opposed by the likes of by the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), the National Freedom Party and the African Independent Congress, the Civil Union Amendment Bill will now go to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.