Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs has adopted a bill that aims to repeal legislation allowing a marriage officer to object‚ on the grounds of conscience‚ religion or belief‚ to solemnising a civil union between people of the same sex.
The committee adopted the Civil Union Amendment Bill on Wednesday and will recommend to the National Assembly to pass it.
“The purpose of the Bill is to repeal section 6 of the principal Act‚ which allowed a marriage officer to inform the minister that he or she objects on the ground of conscience‚ religion‚ and belief to solemnising a civil union between persons of the same sex‚” the committee said in a statement.
“The committee is in agreement with the Constitutional Court ruling that it was unconstitutional for the State to provide the benefits of marriage to opposite-sex couples whilst denying them to same-sex couples. This infringed the right to equality before the law and the right not to be discriminated against by the State on grounds of sexual orientation.”
Cognisant of the fact that the law could not be retrospective‚ the Bill proposes a transitional period of 24 months to give the department of home affairs an opportunity to train staff that had been previously granted exemption.
“The amendment further requires that during the transitional period; the minister of home affairs must ensure that there is a marriage officer‚ other than a marriage officer who had been granted exemption through the principal Act‚ available to solemnise a civil union at every department of home affairs office‚” said the committee.
The amendment was regarded as a strong affirmation to the right of equality before the law and to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.