Signing of the Civil Union Amendment Bill welcomed

OUT LGBT Well-being and the Love Not Hate campaign welcome the signing of the Civil Union Amendment Bill into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa this week.

First introduced as a private members bill by them MP Deidre Carter in January 2018, the new law repeals Section 6 of the Civil Union Act which allowed state-employed Home Affairs officials to refuse to marry same-sex couples on the grounds of their personal “conscience, religion [or] belief”.

This provision has been identified by LGBTQ activists as an unconstitutional and discriminatory flaw in the Civil Union Act that legalised same-sex marriage and civil unions in South Africa in 2006.

As a result of Section 6, many same-sex couples faced discrimination at Home Affairs offices and some couples were also forced to travel to other provinces because local marriage officers refused to solemnise their unions.

“The signing of this Bill has been a long time coming,” comments OUT’s Hate Crime Manager, Roché Kester, who also manages the Love Not Hate programme.

“The Bill was found desirable by the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee in 2018 but lapsed with the 2019 general elections. When the NCOP passed the bill in July of this year, the LGBTI community waited patiently for six months for President Ramaphosa to since the law and rescind Section 6 of the Civil Union.”

Home Affairs will have a 24-month transitional period wherein those officials who were previously exempt from solemnising same-sex unions will be trained to comply with the new legislation. Each branch must in the meantime ensure that it can offer the service to all.

“This is a definite victory for the LGBTI community and a testament that when the community stands together, great things can be achieved to further the rights of the community and to call out injustice that is discriminatory,” says Kester.

She adds: “We will continue to monitor whether same-sex couples have any difficulties at Home Affairs offices and we will take the necessary action to ensure that the provisions of the Civil Union Amendment Bill are enforced.”