The Congress of the People (Cope) is appealing to the members of the LGBTQIA+ community and the general public to support its proposed amendment of the Civil Union Act to remove a clause that permitted home affairs officials to recuse themselves from performing marriage ceremonies on religious and other grounds.
[UPDATE AS OF OCTOBER 23 2020] The president, Cyril Ramaphosa has passed into law the Civil Union Amendment Bill, which prevents marriage officers from refusing to conduct same-sex marriages.
The South African Civil Union Act of 2006 legalised same-sex marriage in the country. The Act allows for two people over the ages of 18 years, irrespective their gender or sexual orientation, to be registered by a way of marriage or civil partnership. However, according to Section 6 of the Act, marriage officers are allowed, in writing to the minister of home affairs, to object “on the ground of consciousness, religion and belief to solemnising a civil union between persons of the same sex”, meaning that they will be exempted from officiating such marriages.
In its Amendment Bill, Cope says it wants to repeal this clause. The party said that many same-sex couples are being turned away from some home affairs officers, especially in rural areas, as all the marriage officers operating in those areas are exempted according to this section.
The party’s media officer Roche Kester explained to The Daily Vox that it was important for this Act to be amended because the LGBTQIA+ community experiences serious discrimination from public servants on various levels.
“We are now particularly focusing on the marriage officers that are supposed to serve as opposed to discriminate in our country, and for us it is important for everyone to have their right to equal treatment and equality when you receive public service from people that are in office,” she said.
Kester said they are calling for non-discrimination and inclusiveness from the department of home affairs to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Kester said they are hoping that the Act will be amended in Parliament. “As it stands, there are 421 marriage officers that said they don’t want the Act to change. But if you look at the population of about 1.3 million LGBTI individuals in this country… we believe that if the community stands together, there is a huge possibility it may just happen,” she said.
The party said it has not received enough submissions and is therefore calling for all LGBTQIA+ members and the general public to support the call.
To read more on the party’s Amendment Bill.