SA JWG: same-sex marriage

Joint working group calls on Cabinet to table Dept of Home Affairs same-sex marriage proposal

August 03, 2006

CAPE TOWN — On Monday the Department of Home Affairs briefed Parliament regarding last year�s Constitutional Court ruling on same-sex marriages. At that briefing, several Members of Parliament expressed concern that Cabinet has not left Parliament enough time to craft a same-sex marriage solution that balances lesbian and gay equality with religious freedom.

The Joint Working Group (JWG), a nationwide network of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) organisations, agrees that same-sex marriage legislation should balance these two values. The best and easiest way to do this is to enact gender-neutral amendments to the existing Marriage Act of 1961. The Constitutional Court has already ruled that such an option is constitutional. The constitutionality of any other approach Cabinet and Parliament may take, on the other hand, is uncertain.

Many people are unaware that the existing Marriage Act already protects religious freedom. Section 30(1) of that Act allows churches, synagogues, and mosques to submit their own marriage formulae to Home Affairs for approval. Furthermore, under Section 31 of the Marriage Act, religious organisations may refuse to perform any marriage that violates their religious doctrine.

Gender-neutral reform of the Marriage Act will not force any religious official to marry same-sex couples. Rather, it will allow religious institutions to choose for themselves whether or not to perform same-sex marriages. It is unnecessary for Cabinet to spend its time searching for a whole new legal alternative that would protect religious freedom and that may be found unconstitutional.

Fikile Vilakazi, Advocacy Officer for OUT LGBT Well-being, said, �Cabinet already has a proposal from Home Affairs that is constitutional and attends to the needs of both LGBT people and religious communities. The most balanced alternative is already on our statute books, easy for Cabinet and Parliament to implement, and easy for the Department of Home Affairs to administer.�

The Joint Working Group thus calls on Cabinet to table the proposal of the Department of Home Affairs for gender-neutral reform of the existing Marriage Act. It is a win-win solution simply awaiting Cabinet�s approval. – Issued by committee of the Joint Working Group

For more information please contact:
OUT LGBT Well-being at (012) 344-5108, or 083 3792488 or 083 2712543.
About the JWG
The JWG came together in 2003 to strengthen the organised LGBTI sector and to maximize responses to LGBTI needs through partnership, collective use of resources and drawing on the strengths of the participating organisations. The group comprises:
  • OUT-LGBT Well-Being
  • Durban Lesbian & Gay Community & Health
  • Behind the Mask
  • Triangle Project
  • Gender Dynamix
  • Activate
  • XX/Y Flame
  • LEGBO – Northern Cape

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