Same-sex couples’ plea
‘Parliament needs to move with speed’
MEMBERS of the gay community in Pietermaritzburg want Parliament, which recently approved a proposal to compel marriage officers to officiate at same-sex marriages, to move with speed and amend the law.
Pietermaritzburg-based Gay and Lesbian Network provincial health co-ordinator, Sphelele Ntshiba, said the move will help alleviate the plight of same-sex couples in the city.
“As we speak there are several members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community living around Pietermaritzburg who were planning to get married around the Christmas period, but will be forced to shelve their plans because there is no marriage officer willing to marry them,” he said.
The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) last week approved the Civil Union Amendment Bill that will compel marriage officers at Home Affairs to officiate at same-sex marriages.
The bill, which has already been approved by the National Assembly, was proposed by Cope MP, Deidre Carter, who hails from Pietermaritzburg.
Ntshiba said the measure, if processed on time, will spare members of the gay and lesbian community the frustration they currently go through when trying to get married. “The issue of Home Affairs officers refusing to officiate in gay and lesbian marriages is worse in Pietermaritzburg than in any other town around the country.
“For our members, who on a daily basis suffer the humiliation of being turned away by homophobic marriage officers, the amendment is long overdue,” he said.
Home Affairs marriage officers who had been refusing to officiate in same-sex marriages had been relying on Section 6 of the Civil Union Act which allows marriage officers to object to solemnising the marriages on the grounds of religion, conscience and belief.
However, the bill will make it illegal for marriage officers to object to solemnising same-sex couples on any grounds.
According to a recent report compiled by Mambaonline, a gay and lesbian social media network, only a small number of Home Affairs marriage officers were willing to officiate in samesex marriages. Carter said it was wrong for government to employ people as marriage officers if the employees are on whatever grounds, not able to execute their duties.
The bill, which is being supported by all Parliament’s major political parties including the ANC, DA and EFF, has, however, been slammed by the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP).
“Our Constitution protects freedom of conscience, religion and belief and members of Parliament have a duty to see that people are not compelled to act against their conscience in the course of their work ...” ACDP MP, Cheryllyn Dudley, said. • [email protected]ness.co.za
“For members [of the gay community], who on a daily basis suffer the humiliation of being turned away by homophobic marriage officers, the amendment is long overdue.”
Snake couple Simon Keys and Siouxsie Gillett. PHOTO: SUPPLIED BY EARTH TOUCH