Portfolio Committee chairperson Hlomane Chauke and Asiphe Ndwayana. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency.
Cape Town - Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-plus (LGBT+) advocacy groups have welcomed the adoption of the Civil Union Amendment Bill that will compel marriage officers at Home Affairs to officiate at same-sex marriages even though they may object to them.

The bill was adopted by the Home Affairs portfolio committee as a step towards equality.

Triangle Project’s Sharon Cox said the bill’s adoption was about progressive legislation.

“It’s about equality and dignity before the law,” she said.

Another organisation, Free Gender, said it had received numerous complaints from same-sex couples who experienced difficulties when seeking to conclude same-sex marriages at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

The organisation said a report by Mambaonline indicated that of a total of 409 DHA offices, only 117 were willing to conclude same-sex civil unions.

Furthermore, 37% of marriage officers objected to concluding same-sex civil unions.

This discrimination stemmed from the implementation of Section 6 of the Civil Union Act, which allows non-religious marriage officers to object to solemnising a same-sex marriage based on religion, conscience and belief even though they are providing a secular state service.

Section 6 has no requirement of a “sincere religious objection” or any measure of establishing whether the objection may be motivated purely or in part by prejudice.

“The Civil Union Act was enacted to provide equal protection to same-sex couples. However, the inclusion of Section 6 in the act has continued to marginalise and discriminate against same-sex couples,” said Free Gender in a statement.

The adopted bill seeks to repeal Section 6 in its entirety.

Freedom Gender described its adoption as a “small victory of ensuring that all forms of marginalisation 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 favour,” it said.

The bill was proposed by Cope, spearheaded by its deputy general- secretary, Deidre Carter.

Portfolio Committee chairperson Hlomane Chauke said the bill still had to be debated in the National Assembly, passed and then signed by the president before it was implemented.

“We are concurring with the Constitution that the State must render a service and no one can delay a person from getting (it),” he said.

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Cape Argus