The National Assembly has adopted the Civil Union Amendment Bill which compels marriage officers at home affairs to officiate at same sex marriages even though they may object to them.
It becomes the second bill sponsored by an opposition MP to be passed by the House. This is good news to Idols SA judge, Somizi Mhlongo, who is reportedly set to wed his Ben 10 boyfriend Mohale Motaung who is Somizi's first child's age, anytime from now. Earlier on it had been reported that the same sex couple would tie the knot this December, however it looks like plans have changed.
The new bill repeals section 6 of the Civil Union Act which allowed a marriage officer to inform the minister that he or she objects on the ground of conscience, religion and belief to solemnising a civil union between persons of the same sex.
COPE’s Deidre Carter, who sponsored the bill, said the amendment goes beyond the mere repeal of section 6 of the principal act.
Carter was speaking during the debate to pass the bill.
“It touches upon the genesis of our constitutional order. It touches that which is most sacrosanct in our constitution, our Bill of the Rights and the right to equality and dignity, that the state may not unfairly discriminate and that it has the responsibility to promote, respect and fulfil these rights,” she said.
Carter described the amendment as a timely reminder of the ethos that should inform the provision of government services; of the values and principles that should inform the morality of those seeking to become civil servants.
“It says that if you are employed as a nurse, for example, it is wrong to contend that it is not your duty to remove and clean the bedpans of one’s patients, or to feed them.
“It is wrong to seek employment as a teacher, if you won’t treat all children equally or fairly regardless of race or creed – or if you refuse to be subjected to performance appraisals,” she said.
The National Freedom Party (NFP), the African Independent Congress and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) were the only parties to object to the bill.
The NFP’s Sibusiso Mncwabe rejected the bill complaining that despite representing a large section of the population and having different beliefs, traditional leaders were not consulted.
The ACDP lashed out saying that there seemed to be broader agenda to put churches and religious bodies under pressure.
ACDP president Kenneth Meshoe said he wouldn’t be surprised if the section protecting rights of churches and religious would be “targeted next”. Meshoe criticised same sex marriages saying “the first marriage was between Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve”.
In her speech, Carter said: “To the ACDP, I wish to point out that to my thinking there is dissonance between your religious stance and aversion to gay and lesbian rights and the ethos of most of the world’s religions, which advocate love, tolerance and acceptance of all,” she said.