Gender rights organisation Free Gender has hailed the Anglican Diocese of Saldanha Bay’s vote in favour of blessing same-sex couples in civil unions in church. Photo: AP
 Cape Town - Gender rights organisation Free Gender has hailed the Anglican Diocese of Saldanha Bay’s vote in favour of blessing same-sex couples in civil unions in church.

Funeka Soldaat, of the black lesbian rights campaign organisation, based in Khayelitsha, said the decision taken would boost the organisation's campaign for inclusivity. In a historic vote on Friday, the Anglican Diocese of Saldanha Bay voted in favour of blessing same-sex couples in civil unions in church, becoming the first diocese in southern Africa to take this step. The diocese voted 104 to 4 to accept without condition those living in same-sex civil unions.

The diocese said it wanted every member of the wider LGBTIQ community to have their union blessed like all other couples in the church.

The diocese of Saldanha Bay stretches from the northern suburbs of Cape Town to the Namibian border.

“It's nice when we hear about some of these developments. It's good when we start a conversation about this and it is definitely assisting our campaign.

“The church has seen violence directed to the LGBTI community.”

Soldaat said it would also be a positive step for there to be representation of the community in the church. “We have been fighting for years for the church to open up, so it really is fantastic.”

At a recent meeting of the Provincial Standing Committee chaired annually by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, the highest decision-making body of the church between synods, endorsed a commission chaired by Bishop Raphael Hess to compile guidelines for those in same sex unions by September next year.