Magistrates must perform same-sex marriages: Law comes into effect

Marriage officials are prohibited from discriminating against same-sex couples because of their personal beliefs.

This comes as the Civil Union Amendment Bill has been signed into law by the presidency.

The act comes into immediate effect.

The bill was first published for comment by the National Assembly in 2018 and was passed by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) four months ago.

It repeals section 6 of the Civil Union Act of 2006, which allowed a marriage officer to inform the home affairs minister of their objection to officiate same-sex unions on the grounds of conscience, religion or belief.

This means state marriage officers and magistrates are now prohibited from refusing to solemnise a civil union between same-sex couples.

Chairperson of the select committee on justice in the NCOP, Shahidabibi Shaik, said at the time the law would afford same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.

The LGBTQI+ non-governmental organisation Triangle Project welcomed the NCOP’s approval.

“Such a discriminatory provision has no place in our constitutional democracy. The removal of the clause is a victory for the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of one’s sexual orientation and for every person’s rights to equality and dignity,” said the organisation.

On Friday, Freedom of Religion SA (For SA) noted “with dismay” that the president had signed the bill into law.

The grouping had argued for a “legal arrangement for state-employed marriage officers to have their fundamental rights respected and protected”, it said in a statement.

“The amendment act is draconian in that it gives the state the power to force people to do things that go against their conscience. This when there were many practical alternatives (to violating people’s fundamental rights) available to the state”, said Daniela Ellerbeck, legal advisor to For SA.

“The Constitutional Court has already ruled that no one should have to choose between obeying their faith (and potentially suffering eternal consequences if they do not), or obeying the law (and potentially losing their job if they do not). It is unconscionable for the state to place its own employees before this choice. This law is an assault on everybody’s right to live in accordance with their sincerely held beliefs.”


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