State marriage officers are now prohibitted from refusing same-sex civil unions

State marriage officers are now prohibited from refusing same-sex civil unions

In a win for LGBT couples in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed the Civil Amendment Act of 2020, making it illegal for state marriage officers and magistrates to refuse to solemnise a civil union between same-sex couples.

The act, which was signed and passed on October 22, repeals Section 6 of the Civil Union Act, 2006 which previously allowed marriage officers to object to marrying same-sex couples.

The act also requires that the Minister must ensure that there is a marriage officer, other than a marriage officer referred to in section 5 of the principal Act, available to solemnise a civil union at every Department of Home Affairs office.

The new act states that any marriage officer who has been granted an exemption by the Minister in terms of section 6 of the principal Act, prior to the commencement of this Act, lapses 24 months from the date of commencement of this Act.

This move follows after many controversial cases of marriage officers refusing to solemnise same-sex civil unions because it was contrary to their beliefs.

Non-profit Christian organisation Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) has opposed the President’s decision, calling it ‘unconstitutional’.

“The Amendment Act removes the right of State-employed marriage officers and magistrates to object – on grounds of their sincerely held conscience, religion, and belief (which are protected by section 15 of the Constitution) – to being personally forced to solemnise same-sex marriages.  The Amendment Act fails to replace it with another remedy that meets constitutional standards,” said Daniela Ellerbeck, Legal Advisor of FOR SA.

Read the Act here:Act_8_of_2020_Civil_Union_Amendment_Act

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