OUT, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) health and well-being group in Pretoria, welcomes the Alberton Magistrates Court’s ruling on 30 July 2012 affirming the right of a lesbian couple to book a venue to celebrate their civil union, and for its award of R20,000 to OUT.

Sitting as an Equality Court, the Court ruled that ShaMani, a function venue in Alberton, unfairly discriminated against a lesbian couple - Francis and Liani Buitendag. The Court ordered ShaMani to pay R20,000 to OUT.

The Buitendag couple entered into a civil union in 2011 and they decided on ShaMani as an appropriate venue to publicly celebrate their wedding. When they tried to obtain a suitable date, various obstacles were put in their way. The Buitendags brought a case in terms of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (2003) which specifies that any person may bring a case of unfair discrimination by the State or a private person or institution to an equality court.

Dawie Nel, the Director of OUT, stated: “We are encouraged by the ruling. It shows hard-won legal equalities put into action. South African society is still deeply conservative and very quick to use ‘un-African’ and ‘un-Christian’ excuses to diminish Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) citizens’ equality and dignity. We congratulate the Buitendags for their courage not to accept such discrimination and to use our progressive legal framework to protect their rights and to further social equality.”

OUT addresses various forms of discrimination against LGBT people. The organisation is currently working to secure successful convictions in the cases of eight gay men murdered in Gauteng. OUT also conducts various trainings with mainstream service providers to ensure that LGBT clients receive competent and friendly services.

Nel continued: “We will use the R20,000 payment in our ongoing work to address all forms of discrimination and hate crimes against our community. There are concerning levels of prejudice in South African society and progressive forces need to speak out and take action to ensure freedom for all.”