The LGBTI community in South Africa jubilated after the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs in Parliament adopted the amendment of Section 6 of the Civil Union Act on Wednesday. According to Mamba Online on 28th November 2018, the change seeks to repeal Section 6 that allows Home Affairs marriage officials the right to reject marrying lesbian and gay couples on grounds of conscience, religion and belief.
It should be noted that despite the legalization of same sex marriages and civil union partnerships since November 2006, this exemption fosters discrimination based on sexual orientation that is against the law. Article 9 of the South African Constitution states that "All persons are equal before law and there can't be any discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth."
The Civil Union Amendment bill was introduced by Deidre Carter, the MP of Free State in January this year. This was because less numbers of same sex couples were allowed to marry in the Home Affairs offices since few officials were willing to solemnize their unions. Mamba Online reported that only 111 out of 412 branches are willing to marry gay and lesbian couples which also impedes on the right to marriage equality of all South Africans. The unanimously approved bill will be presented to the National Assembly for a debate and passed into law before the next elections in May 2019 if it is accepted to become law.
The bill proposes a transitional period of two years. During this time, the department of Home Affairs will be allowed to address any concerns as officials are being trained. Well as current Home Affairs officials are allowed to exempt from marrying same sex couples under section 6 of the Civil Union Act, the Minister of Home Affairs will ensure that there are other marriage officers available to solemnize civil unions at every department.
Funeka Soldaat, an LGBTI activist based in South Africa told Mamba Online that,"... We celebrate the small victory of ensuring that all forms of marginalization are removed from our laws. We look forward to when all Home Affairs offices and marriage officials are able to officiate same sex marriages without prejudice or favor." In agreement, Igor Scheurkogel, who initiated the petition last year said that this victory was not only for the LGBTIQ community. It is a victory for all South Africa where public service delivery is promised to all.