[Marxism] South African Parliament Approves Gay Marriages (NYT)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 16 10:56:00 MST 2006

November 14, 2006
South African Parliament Approves Gay Marriages


JOHANNESBURG, Nov. 14 — South Africa’s Parliament overwhelmingly
voted today to legalize same-sex marriages, making the nation the
first in Africa and the fifth in the world to remove legal barriers
to gay and lesbian unions, according to activists.

The legislature voted after the nation’s highest court ruled that
South Africa’s marriages statutes violated the constitution’s
guarantee of equal rights. The court gave the government a year to
amend the legal definition of marriage. That deadline expires in two

Melanie Judge, program manager for OUT, a gay rights advocacy group,
noted that the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada were the only
other countries to allow same-sex marriages nationwide. In most
African nations, she said, homosexuality is still treated as a crime.
Some penalties are stiffer than those for rape or murder..

Ms. Judge credited South Africa’s liberal constitution with forcing

“This has been a litmus test of our constitutional values,” she said
in a telephone interview. “What does equality really mean? What does
it look like? Equality does not exist on a sliding scale.”

Religious groups and traditional leaders strenuously opposed the
measure, arguing that if necessary the constitution should be amended
to outlaw same-sex unions. But the ruling African National Congress
virtually demanded that lawmakers support the bill.

Despite deep divisions within the party, the measure passed 230 to
41. It must now be approved by the Council of Provinces, a
quasi-federal chamber, and be signed the president to become law.

Vytjie Mentor, the party’s caucus chairman, told the South African
newspaper The Sunday Independent earlier this month that he expected
legislators belonging to the African National Congress to vote for
the measure, regardless of their personal views.

There is “no such thing as a free vote or a vote of conscience,” he
said. “How do you give someone permission to discriminate in the name
of the A.N.C.? How do you allow for someone to vote against the
constitution and the policies of the A.N.C., which is

The new law allows both heterosexual and same-sex couples to register
their unions either as marriages or civil partnerships. But in a
concession to critics, it also allows civil officers to refuse to
marry same-sex couples on the basis on conscience. Ms. Judge, the gay
rights advocate, predicted that provision will be challenged in

“We can’t be in the situation where civil officers can decide who
they want to marry and who they don’t want to marry,” she said. “They
aren’t able to refuse to marry a black person and a white person.
This is unconstitutional.”

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