Law change: Officials banned from ‘refusing to marry’ same-sex couples

A law has been passed on Wednesday, which forbids marriage officials from discriminating against same-sex couples due to their personal beliefs.

There has been a major victory for same-sex couples looking to tie the knot in South Africa, after the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) passed a rule which forbids religious and administrative officials from refusing to perform a ceremony if they ‘conscientiously object’ to gay marriage.

New law bolsters same-sex marriage rights

The effect of this Bill is to remove the “conscientious objection clause” in section 6 of the Civil Union Act. This will mean that State marriage officers and magistrates must marry same-sex couples, even if it goes against religious or personal beliefs which disagree with the marital union of homosexual partners.

Great news for gay couples – but not everyone is happy…

However, what is seen as a massive achievement in the LGBTQI+ community will only spark outrage for the conservative sections of South African society. Freedom of Religion SA (FOR SA) became the first group to openly criticise the new law on Wednesday, complaining that people will be asked to ‘compromise their values’:

WIt is regrettable that instead of looking for a ‘win-win’ solution that upholds all fundamental rights and allows for diversity of opinion and belief, Parliament has opted for a ‘winner takes all’ outcome. This is contrary to the spirit of our Constitution, which envisages a society where we are united in the celebration of our diversity”.

“Many people are legitimately concerned that the passing of this Bill into law will open the door to a world where people who hold traditional, conservative values will increasingly be forced to either compromise or face significant personal sanctions. The mantra of mutual respect is no longer ‘live and let live’.”

Michael Swain, Executive Director of FOR SA

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