Thursday, December 01, 2005

South African high court rules in favor of marriage equality

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According to an article from CNN, South Africa's Constitutional Court has ruled that the country's marriage laws unfairly discriminate against same-sex couples who wish to be married. The ruling, which was issued Thursday, was decided in a 9-1 vote. The issue of law itself, however, was handed over to South Africa's parliament, which now has one year in which to change the marriage laws. According to the article:
Marie Fourie and Cecelia Bonthuys of Pretoria were plaintiffs in the first of two cases on the issue, which were merged. Fourie and Bonthuys claimed "the law excludes them from publicly celebrating their love and commitment to each other in marriage," said a court statement. "They contend that the exclusion comes from the common law definition, which states that marriage in South Africa is a union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion, while it lasts, of all others." The second case before the court referred to the Gay and Lesbian Equality Project's challenge to the country's marriage act. The challenged section says marriage officers must ask of the parties whether they take their partner as their lawful wife or husband. That reference, the Equality Project contends, is unconstitutional because it excludes same-sex couples, the statement said. Possible solutions, the court suggested, include following the Equality Project's proposal and have the Marriage Act say that marriage officers would ask parties if they would take their partner as their lawful wife, husband or spouse.
The suit was brought about by South Africa's Gay and Lesbian Equality Project and some eighteen other gay and lesbian rights groups and was filed against South Africa's MInister of Home Affairs. Anti-gay feelings, however are on the rise. According to the article:
A conservative group of medical doctors called Doctors for Life International condemned the ruling. It had submitted a brief to the court against the same-sex marriage position. The group said in a statement it "implores Parliament to allow empirical science to lead it in this decision for the benefit of all South Africans. South Africa's post-apartheid constitution bans discrimination against gays and lesbians. The constitutional protection is a rarity on a continent where homosexuality is largely a taboo topic. Anti-gay sentiment, however, is becoming increasingly popular in Africa, especially in more conservative religious groups. Henry Orambi, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda, recently told worshippers that society has "walked down the slippery road of immorality." "As if woman-to-man is not enough, we have gone man-to-man and woman-to-woman," he said. "Now where are we going to end up?"