As Australian politicians still squabble over how and when a vote for same-sex marriage will occur, in South Africa politicians are in hot water for failing to amend a major discriminatory provision in the country’s same-sex marriage law that allows marriage officers to refuse to conduct civil unions for gay couples.
A part of the South African Civil Union Act allows Home Affairs marriage officers to refuse to marry same-sex couples.
More than a third of Home Affairs marriage officers had been granted exemption from solemnising civil unions between people of the same sex because they “objected on the grounds of conscience, religion or belief”.
But in a September 2016 report, it was revealed that only 26% of the Home Affairs branches in the country offered the service.
Deputy General Secretary of COPE, Deidre Carter has asked the Minister of Home Affairs Hlengiwe Mkhize to use her power and amend legislation that forces all marriage officers to follow the law and conduct all civil unions no matter who they are for.
To this date, the Minister has refused to make any change.
Speaking with Mambaonline Carter questioned whether, under the constitution, government-employed marriage offices should have the right to be granted this exemption.
“They are, after all, employed to provide services to the people impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias,” she noted to Mambaonline.
Carter also expressed her disappointment that the minister did not propose that the Civil Union Act be amended to make it compulsory for all government-appointed marriage officers to officiate same-sex civil unions, “instead of hiding behind the current (and questionable) provisions of the law”.
“It’s about time that the act was amended. COPE will support and collaborate with initiatives launched in this regard.”
Igor Scheurkogel, who created an online petition last month is calling on the government to amend the act.
Scheurkogel claims on his petition that the Home Affairs figures mean that only 117 of the 409 offices nationwide will welcome gay or lesbian couples who would like to get married under the Civil Union Act.
“If you break it down per province, in Gauteng, only 17 out of 57 offices will conduct same‐sex marriages, along with 10 out of 59 in the Eastern Cape, 5 out of 28 in the Free State, 10 out of 58 in Mpumalanga, 16 out 61 in Limpopo and 10 out of 34 in the Western Cape,” explains Scheurkogel.
“In the Northern Cape, the number is 9 out of 22, in KZN it’s 29 out of 68 and in North West, 10 out of 22 will assist same‐sex couples.
“I plead with South Africans to stand together so that the Constitution is a document to protect our rights and humanity.”
The petition is available to sign by anyone here.
Currently, almost 1,000 people have signed the petition but Scheurkogel would like to see that number rise to 10,000.
“I really thought that the LGBT community in South Africa would be on this just like we stood together to ban Pastor Anderson from spreading hate in South Africa, but the opposite has happened,” Scheurkogel said to Mambaonline.
“I do not know if it is because it was launched by an unknown individual like myself or if we feel it is a lost cause to go against the government or we as the LGBT community have just accepted certain limitations on our rights in South Africa.”
Last Updated on Jul 24, 2017