South Africa approves same-sex unions in face of religious opposition

By staff writers
November 17, 2006

South Africa approves same-sex unions in face of religious opposition

-17/11/06

Two weeks before a deadline set by the South African Constitutional Court, the country's lower house of Parliament has approved a Civil Union Bill that will allow homosexual couples to register their unions, giving them the same rights as heterosexual couples, despite strong protests from a number of religious groups - writes David Wanless for Ecumenical News International.

South Africa became the first country in Africa, and the fifth in the world, to legalise same sex marriages when its National Assembly voted 230 to 41 to remove language in the proposed law which created separate categories for same and opposite sex unions.

Prior to the vote, which followed public hearings in the country's nine provinces, there were numerous petitions and demonstrations by religious groups expressing opposition to the proposals, some warning of the wrath of God if it were passed.

Some groups also accused the ruling African National Congress, which did not allow its parliamentarians a free vote on the new law, of being "eurocentric" for its support of the legislation. Countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and other African countries have banned homosexuality.

During the debate, the African Christian Democratic Party opposed the bill on religious grounds, and also did not allow its members a free vote. Its leader, the Rev Kenneth Meshoe, said: "Parliament has gone too far and is testing God's patience." He claimed that the ANC and those supporting the bill were inviting serious trouble on themselves, without even considering the impact it will have on future generations.

Gay and lesbian groups welcomed the passing of the bill, which must still be approved by the upper chamber of Parliament - the Council of Provinces - and must be signed into law by President Mbeki. Home affairs minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said the law was only a temporary measure, noting that a fuller marriage law would be formulated to harmonise the several pieces of marriage legislation now in force.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

Ekklesia adds: Full equality for lesbian and gay people has been backed by former Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other progressive Christians, including a significant minority in South Africa's Anglican Church, which remains divided on the issue.

South Africa approves same-sex unions in face of religious opposition

-17/11/06

Two weeks before a deadline set by the South African Constitutional Court, the country's lower house of Parliament has approved a Civil Union Bill that will allow homosexual couples to register their unions, giving them the same rights as heterosexual couples, despite strong protests from a number of religious groups - writes David Wanless for Ecumenical News International.

South Africa became the first country in Africa, and the fifth in the world, to legalise same sex marriages when its National Assembly voted 230 to 41 to remove language in the proposed law which created separate categories for same and opposite sex unions.

Prior to the vote, which followed public hearings in the country's nine provinces, there were numerous petitions and demonstrations by religious groups expressing opposition to the proposals, some warning of the wrath of God if it were passed.

Some groups also accused the ruling African National Congress, which did not allow its parliamentarians a free vote on the new law, of being "eurocentric" for its support of the legislation. Countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and other African countries have banned homosexuality.

During the debate, the African Christian Democratic Party opposed the bill on religious grounds, and also did not allow its members a free vote. Its leader, the Rev Kenneth Meshoe, said: "Parliament has gone too far and is testing God's patience." He claimed that the ANC and those supporting the bill were inviting serious trouble on themselves, without even considering the impact it will have on future generations.

Gay and lesbian groups welcomed the passing of the bill, which must still be approved by the upper chamber of Parliament - the Council of Provinces - and must be signed into law by President Mbeki. Home affairs minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said the law was only a temporary measure, noting that a fuller marriage law would be formulated to harmonise the several pieces of marriage legislation now in force.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

Ekklesia adds: Full equality for lesbian and gay people has been backed by former Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other progressive Christians, including a significant minority in South Africa's Anglican Church, which remains divided on the issue.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.