SA Govt trying to deal with same sex marriage: Dep Min

Donwald Pressly | August 02, 2006

CAPE TOWN — The South African Government was trying to deal with the issue of same sex marriage "as sensibly as possible" but there were religious groups which wanted the country to go in one direction and gay groups that wanted to go in quite another, deputy Justice Minister Johnny de Lange told journalists on Tuesday.

Addressing a media briefing in Pretoria – but beamed to Cape Town – the deputy minister said it was important to maintain "social cohesion" and it was not always possible to deal with sensitive matters of this kind "at treetops".

There was a danger that one could create "a huge social cohesion deficit", charged the deputy minister, who added that it was important not to "worsen divisions in society" over this matter.

He promised, however, that government would meet the December 2 deadline for a Bill on gay marriages.

"The Bill will be ready in time," he told journalists. "Government is trying to deal with this as sensibly as possible."

Last December the Constitutional Court (Concourt) ruled that it was unconstitutional to prevent gay people from enjoying the legal benefits of marriage. It gave Parliament one year to rework laws allowing same sex marriage.

This follows a ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal which ruled that two women – Marie Fourie and Cecilia Bonthuys – should be allowed to get married.

However, they were unable to register their marriage with the Home Affairs department.

Asked if there was any disagreement between Home Affairs and Justice over the Bill, De Lange said that the Home Affairs department dealt with the Marriage Act and Justice dealt with human rights issues. There was no disagreement between the two as far as he was concerned and the two departments worked together in the same cluster of ministries.

The Concourt judgment was delivered by Judge Albie Sachs who said a section of the Marriage Act was unconstitutional because the wording allowed only for marriages between men and women.

Effectively gay couples may marry in South Africa but their marriages are not recognised by the law. – Issued by www.inet.co.za, © all rights reserved

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