Home Affairs officials can't refuse to solemnise same-sex marriages after Bill is adopted

The National Assembly adopted a Bill on Thursday which will ensure that same-sex couples are treated the same way as heterosexual couples when it comes to civil unions.

The Civil Union Amendment Bill seeks to repeal Section 6 of the Civil Union Act, which allowed a marriage officer to inform the minister that "he or she objects on the ground of conscience, religion, and belief to solemnising a civil union between persons of the same sex".

Thereby, it prohibits officials from refusing to solemnise same-sex marriages.

It is a private members' Bill brought by Cope MP Deidre Carter.

"Speaker, this proposed amendment Bill's importance goes beyond the mere repeal of Section 6 of the Civil Union Act," she said. 

"It touches upon the genesis of our constitutional order. It touches that which is most sacrosanct in our Constitution, our Bill of the Rights: the right to equality and dignity; that the state may not unfairly discriminate; and that it has the responsibility to promote, respect and fulfil these rights."

'Progressive governance' 

She added that it touched upon the often forgotten provisions of Chapter 10 of the Constitution, which sets out values and principles by which the public administration must be governed: of professional and ethical conduct and of the provision of services impartially, fairly, equitably, and without bias.

"It is these values that inform the difference between bad and indifferent governance and good and progressive governance," she said. The Bill was adopted without being put to a vote, but the NFP, ACDP and NFP objected.

EFF MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi said it was the first and last time that they would vote for a Cope-sponsored Bill.

The DA's Haniff Hoosen said they supported the Bill, but they differed from the provision that the ANC put in, that the bill would only come into effect 24 months after being enacted.

The Bill has been referred to the National Council of Provinces for consent.

This is only the second time that a private members' Bill has been adopted.

On November 28 last year, the National Assembly adopted the Labour Laws Amendment Bill, sponsored by ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley. 

The Bill was enacted by President Cyril Ramaphosa last month.