The presidency signed into law the Civil Union Amendment Bill which prohibits marriage officials to discriminate against same-sex based in personal beliefs. The Act comes into effect immediately. The bill was first published and opened to comments by the National Assembly in 2018 and was passed by the National Council of Provinces four months ago. The amendment repeals section 6 of the Civil Union Act of 2006, which allowed a marriage officer to inform the home affairs minister of their objection to officiate same-sex unions on the grounds of religion, belief, or conscience.
State Marriage Officers and Magistrates are now prohibited from refusing to solemnise a civil union between same-sex couples. Shahidabibi Shaik, chairperson of the committee, said at the time the law would afford same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.
The LGBTQI+ non-governmental organisation, Triangle Project, welcomed the news. “Such a discriminatory provision has no place in our constitutional democracy. The removal of the clause is a victory for the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of one’s sexual orientation and for every person’s rights to equality and dignity,” the organisation said.
Freedom of Religion SA however, on Friday noted “with dismay” that the president had signed the bill into law. “The amendment act is draconian in that it gives the state the power to force people to do things that go against their conscience. This when there were many practical alternatives (to violating people’s fundamental rights) available to the state”, said Daniela Ellerbeck, legal advisor to FOR SA. “The Constitutional Court has already ruled that no one should have to choose between obeying their faith (and potentially suffering eternal consequences if they do not), or obeying the law (and potentially losing their job if they do not). It is unconscionable for the state to place its own employees before this choice. This law is an assault on everybody’s right to live in accordance with their sincerely held beliefs.”