South Africa Legalizes Gay Marriage

SouthafricamapBecoming the first country on the African continent and the fifth in the world to do so, South Africa’s parliament today voted to legalize same-sex marriage.

The “Civil Union Bill” passed by a vote of 230 to 41 with three abstentions.

According to the AP, “The bill provides for the ‘voluntary union of two persons, which is solemnized and registered by either a marriage or civil union.’ It does not specify whether they are heterosexual or homosexual partnerships. But it also says marriage officers need not perform a ceremony between same-sex couples if doing so would conflict with his or her ‘conscience, religion and belief.'”

Supporters are happy that “marriage” is included in the language of the bill but some worry that the latter could leave couples searching for someone to marry them. Nevertheless, the bill was hailed as a victory by gay groups.

South Africa joins Canada, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Spain as countries where same-sex marriage is legal nationwide.

Melanie Judge of the gay rights advocacy group OUT, hailed the decision in an interview with the New York Times: “This has been a litmus test of our constitutional values. What does equality really mean? What does it look like? Equality does not exist on a sliding scale.”

South Africa was the first country in the world to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in its constitution, adopted when apartheid ended in 1994.

South African Parliament Approves Gay Marriages [tr]


  1. says

    We’ll get there. In the future, vote. And get your friends to vote. And get them to get their friends to vote. If every gay man and woman of voting age registered and voted against the last marriage amendments thrown in our face, they would have been defeated. Simple numbers, folks. Think about it!

  2. Anita Woodward says

    “In the future, vote. And get your friends to vote. And get them to get their friends to vote. If every gay man and woman of voting age registered and voted against the last marriage amendments thrown in our face, they would have been defeated. Simple numbers, folks. Think about it!”

    That’s a really interesting point. I’ve never heard anyone make that argument before. Ever!

  3. uhuh says

    Ashamed? Yes, they have gay marriage so maybe the poor living in run down shanty towns packed in like animals with no running water or electricity can now take solace from the fact that at least they can marry the same sex.


    I would take equal opportunities and education and living conditions over same sex marriage.

    South Africa has a long long way to go before things are “equal”.

  4. says

    The Gay and Lesbian Task Force has some interesting voting research that shows Kerry didn’t lose the election because of “gay marriage,” and The Urban Institute has some numbers and voting patterns. I can’t find the paper I’m thinking of that showed the margins of wins of the amendments and the purported numbers of gays that stayed home.

    Like when Carol Channing (may have) said she didn’t care – my thought is – you know, she’s not trying to be mean. She’s being honest, and it’s not pretty, but there it is. What do we care about? Primarily, we care about ourselves, and our family (however that is defined), and then somewhere down there we start caring about the “other.”

    Like UHUH pointed out, there are many things wrong in South Africa that this won’t put right. This is also true in our country. And if given the choice, sure – I would choose to eradicate poverty and disease first.

    But that isn’t the choice, and as this was a relatively simple process (voting) as opposed to what it would take to eradicate poverty and disease (building infrastructure and developing cheap meds, building and running schools, etc.), then I’m glad they did it.

    But I can get my friends to the polls, and I can pass out voter registration cards and I can do voter outreach (and I do all these things) so when the next marriage amendment comes up, well, it may pass by a smaller margin. Or fail. And then we are one step closer to the ideal world I think we can all agree we’d like to live in.

  5. Anon says

    hahaha UHUH. Let me see, students are failing math and education is falling apart. We’re behind China and Japan in industiral designers, engineers, scientists, we pay celebrities more money than our civil servants and teachers, hate crimes have been on the rise, talk about povery look at Flint, Michigan, it makes South Africa look like a vacation destination (Cape Town is actually a very beautiful city with many pro’s going for it than most people realize). America has bled money into this war for oil in Iraq, social security is falling apart if it even exists any more, retirement age has increased, unemployment has risen, pollution has increased, 2 out 3 high school students are now dropping out, college is a luxury most can’t afford, the privitization of the health care system has made prescription drugs for those in need almost impossible to afford as “the American way of life” and free market in something as important as health has placed dollar signs over life, we live in a country in which the President has personally taken away our civil liberties (any one remember Bush signing away law in which any one can be arrested at any time for any thing without due process or trial or were they all too busy watching “So You Think You Can Dance?), more people are working harder at jobs WITH college educations just to make ends meet AND OUR COUNTRY IS EXTREMELY BEHIND IN SOCIAL POLICY PASSING LAWS TO TAKE AWAY RIGHTS OF AMERICANS – THE LAST I CHECKED IT SAID “ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL” RIGHT? I GO ON??? SO no, America is not necessarily better off, far from it…

  6. says

    Yet again, I’m proud to be South African when I see our Constitution guaranteeing the rights of all. Anita completely misses the point when she talks about the economic realities and inequalities that exist in South Africa. She could also have discussed the high levels of homophobia that exist in certain parts of the country in contrast to the laws that guarantee gays and lesbians equality. That would also be missing the point. And to have to point out why this things miss the point should really be unnecessary even though other commentators have done a good job of it.

  7. says

    Anon, will you marry me? I couldn’t have said it better myself! Just because certain things are wrong doesn’t mean the “least” wrong shouldn’t be corrected, UHUH! One step at a time, my friend, one step at a time!

  8. Ian says

    Actually, can I point out we have civil unions equal to straight ones (though it’s not called marriage) in Britain as well as the 5 countries mentioned above? Though I don’t know if it applies to the whole country, i.e. Northern Ireland and Scotland.

    The arguments above are great, though I wonder if the point made above – that there are (depending on your point of view) more important things going on in the world than the issue of gay marriage, which doesn’t give full equality if you’ve no anti-discrimination protection and isn’t recognised anywhere else federally. You can certainly understand the folks in Flint, Michigan wanting politicos to sort out jobs first before they go onto anything else? I know this is an issue to fight for, but it isn’t the only issue surely? We should be fighting for equality for all, not just ourselves.

  9. mark m says

    Thank you Anon for opening up a can of whoop ass on “UHH’s” predictably trite denouncement of (any country other than the US). I’m sick of these LCR trolls — NOT saying Uhh is one, but LCR’s make the same arguments– that none of the countries who have adopted gay marriage are superior to the US in any regard.

    Get it through your thick head: The US — along with China — is the richest and strongest nation on earth. But wealth and military might do not last forever. We are falling behind other countries in education and social progress and it will be our downfall. The sooner we wake to this reality and fight to stop it, the better off we will be. You are not helping our country by beating your chest with claims that are hollow and empty.

  10. Cory says

    That was me (embarrassed smiley) under ANON. LOL I own it, I just feared if I went off on a tangent I’d be blasted again by SOULBROTHA who seems to have it in for me lol… Sorry all… =)

  11. Amanda says

    I think there are much more important issues in South Africa right now then homosexual marriage. There is still so much racism and discrimination against the African people in that country. South Africa has a long way to go.

  12. Amanda says

    There is so much problems in South Africa in terms of blacks not getting the opportunities still to get a good education. And education is the key for young people to get a better future. Where are the activists on that one? I also believe people need clean water, food, good health care, medicine. I don’t know I just find this kind of frivilous in relation to all the serious problems in South Africa still faces. And I hope the world doesn’t forget Apartheid only ended TWELVE YEARS AGO. A leopard doesn’t change its spots in only 12 years!

  13. EireKev says

    While I’d agree with you Amanda that gay marriage isn’t the most important issue facing South Africa it is, however, one of the easiest equality issue to address. Also it’s worth bearing in mind that gay marriage is good for a countries economy. A popular Irish economist, David McWilliams, has written about this a number of times (see for an example). Course that doesn’t mean the poorer people (invariably blacks) will get their fair share of the wealth but it’s a start.