By Jenni Evans

Homosexuality is against the Bible and so same-sex marriages should not be allowed, the Constitutional Court heard on Tuesday.

"There is no escaping the fact that in both testaments homosexual acts are condemned in very strong language," said John Smyth of Doctors For Life, who have been admitted as friends of the court.

The court was hearing an application to appeal a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling that the common law should be developed to allow same-sex marriage.

Smyth said that to allow same-sex unions would cause "violence to the mind and spirit" of deeply religious people and would discriminate against them.

He quoted sections of the Bible according to which God said that a man and a woman must "cleave" together to procreate.

At this point judge Albie Sachs interjected to say it would be a "worrying day" if judges were asked to give meaning to religious texts.

Judge Kate O'Regan said that marriage was sacred, not just because of religious texts.

Earlier, the Marriage Alliance defined marriage as a unique institution that recognised the lifelong partnership between a man and a woman and that sex between the two would lead to procreation.

Their advocate Gerrit Pretorius said that allowing same-sex marriages would eventually lead to discrimination against heterosexual couples.

This led Justice van der Westhuizen to comment that this reminded him of the previous government's worries about the communist onslaught.

The department of home affairs believes that when the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the common law must be developed to allow same-sex marriages, it did so without having been asked to do so. Common law is developed by judges' rulings which set precedents.

The department believes that the rules relating to the separation of powers mean that only parliament can develop the law.

Earlier, statements by the department's advocate were met with laughter and gasps of disbelief from the public gallery.

"Same-sex partnerships are a relatively new phenomenon... We don't know whether single-sex relationships involve the idea of mutual support," said advocate Marumo Moerane.

A woman who wanted to be identified only as Joan told Tuesday morning's press briefing that she just wanted to tell the world that she and her partner were a couple.

"When I was born in this country, I was given the right to be married. Now because I'm gay I don't have that right."

A number of sangomas were included in a group of pro-same-sex marriage protesters, over which police officers kept watch. - Sapa