SA gay couple are first to tie the knot under new law

Troy Espera | December 04, 2006

Vernon Gibbs and Tony Halls
CAPE TOWN — Two South Africa men celebrated the country‚Äôs first gay wedding in the Southern Cape town of George on the day the law allowing same-sex unions took effect.

Vernon Gibbs and Tony Halls told the BBC that they have been planning their wedding for eight months and chose a double-barrelled surname.

Vernon Halls-Gibbs said it was significant that the union took place on World Aids Day.

"This marriage... is for all HIV/Aids sufferers and gay people who have experienced discrimination," he told the BBC.

The couple, who run a guest lodge and animal rehabilitation centre on the south-western coast, donned their game-ranger outfits and went down to the local home affairs office.

The Halls-Gibbs wore game-ranger outfits to their wedding, reports the AP news agency.

They said to the AP that they only received the go-ahead for the wedding from the home affairs ministry on Thursday.

"I just have one message I would like to give to everybody that we are just two men who love each other and who have loved each other for a long time," said Vernon Halls-Gibbs.

South Africa on Thursday became the first country in Africa, and only the fifth in the world, to legalize same-sex marriages, despite opposition from political parties and religious groups.

The Civil Union Act went into effect a day ahead of the December 1 deadline set by the country's Constitutional Court, which required the marriage law be changed to ensure equality for gays and lesbians.

The new law sparked a rush by business to service the new "pink wedding" industry.

A Cape Town jewellers offered 20,000 rand ($2,800) worth of jewellery to the first gay couple to get married and hotels are offering customised receptions.

The Civil Union Act was signed into law on Thursday after the Constitutional Court last year set a 1 December deadline for the law to be changed.

Jacky Mashapu, a spokesperson for the Home Affairs Ministry, where couples will need to apply for permission to wed, told Independent Online that the town of George had been the site of the first two gay weddings – Gibbs and Hart at 11am and another one at 2pm. Details of the second one are not yet known.

Mashapu said to Independent Online that they were still trying to ascertain how many applications had been made to offices across the country.

South Africa is the first African country, and the fifth in the world, to allow same-sex unions. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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