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Joint Statement [Free Gender & LRC]: The Adoption of the Civil Union Amendment Bill [B11-2018] by the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs

Joint Statement [Free Gender & Legal Resources Centre] The Adoption of the Civil Union Amendment Bill [B11-2018] by the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs

Published by the Legal Resources Centre  28 November 2018

Joint-Statement:
The Adoption of the Civil Union Amendment Bill [B11-2018] by the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs
28 November 2018
 
For Immediate Release: 28 November 2018
 
 
Over the years Free Gender has received numerous complaints from same-sex couples who have experienced difficulties when seeking to conclude same-sex marriages at the Department of Home Affairs (“DHA”). Reports by Mambaonline show that of a total of 409 DHA offices, only 117 offices are willing to conclude same-sex civil unions.  Furthermore, 37% of marriage officers object to concluding same-sex civil unions. Motivated by the need to ensure that the historic discrimination against LGBTI persons in South Africa does not continue to marginalise and violate their constitutional rights, the Legal Resources Centre and Free Gender developed and implemented a project that focuses on addressing such discrimination specifically on the implementation of Section 6 of the Civil Union Act 17 of 2006.
 
Section 6 of the Civil Union Act 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. Further, 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 and/or stigma against LGBTI persons. A marriage officer can therefore object to solemnising a same-sex marriage merely based on his/her homophobic beliefs. 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. It is far more difficult for same-sex couples to conclude a marriage than for heterosexual couples. 
 
Accordingly, we support the repeal of the section 6 as proposed by COPE in its private members Bill. Free Gender and the Legal Resources Centre made joint-submissions to the Portfolio Committee for Home Affairs on the proposed Civil Union Amendment Bill. The Bill seeks to repeal section 6 of the Civil Union Act in its entirety. Giving civil servants the right to refuse to solemnise a same-sex marriage undermines same-sex couples’ constitutional right to equal protection and benefit from the law and it limits their access to basic services that are freely available to heterosexual couples. As section 6 of the Civil Union Act infringes on the constitutional rights to equality, dignity and the right to be different, we believe that the amendment to the Civil Union Act is a necessary stride in ensuring the realisation of same-sex couple’s constitutional rights. Free Gender and the Legal Resources Centre therefore strongly the support the proposed repeal of section 6 of the Civil Union Act.
 
The Civil Union Amendment Bill will be adopted by the Portfolio Committee of Home Affairs today, Wednesday 28 November 2018, at 13:00 in Parliament before being sent to the National Assembly for debate. All members of the community are encouraged to join us in this historic moment. We celebrate the 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. We thank all the members of the LGBTIQ community who shared their stories and experiences at Home Affairs during the implementation of 
this project.
 
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
ENDS
Released by:
Free Gender
Contact: Funeka Soldaat: 076 321 0276
 
Legal Resources Centre
Contact: Mandi Mudarikwa: 021 481 3000

[1] http://www.mambaonline.com/2016/09/08/farce-28-home-affairs-offices-will-marry-gay-people/
[2] https://pmg.org.za/committee-question/5631/

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