COSATU applauds the Portfolio Committee’s adoption of the Civil Unions Amendment Bill. This is a progressive and long overdue step forward. We appreciate the patriotic approach of the sponsoring MP, Ms. D. Carter, as well as the ANC and other MPs in the Committee who supported the bill.
The Civil Unions Act guarantees the constitutional right of all persons, including those in same sex partnerships, the right to marry.
The Civil Unions Amendment Bill requires state marriage officers (e.g. Home Affairs officials and magistrates) to officiate same sex marriages. The Bill removes the current provision in the Act allowing state marriage officers the right not to officiate same sex marriages. This opt out clause had been included in the original act as a transitional compromise.
However it has resulted in some same sex couples struggling to find marriage officers who will agree to officiate their marriages. This has meant at times couples having to travel hundreds of kilometers to find willing marriage officers.
Whilst such a transitional compromise may have been necessary when the Act was adopted, it is clearly discriminatory and unconstitutional. Society has equally evolved and become more accepting of same sex marriages. Public servants must serve all members of the public and cannot be allowed to choose who they want to serve.
COSATU strongly supports this bill and any other legislative to combat all forms of discrimination including against same sex couples. This was a key resolution of COSATU’s 13th National Congress in September 2018.
The federation urges the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces to ensure this progressive bill’s passage before the May 2019 elections. No delays will be acceptable.
The federation urges the Departments of Home Affairs and Justice to begin training and preparing all marriage officers to implement this human rights bill. Our public service affiliates, in particular NEHAWU, are ready to implement it.
We equally want to urge those who still cling to discriminatory tendencies, to catch up with the rest of South Africa and to embrace the letter and spirit of our progressive Constitution.
For more information contact Cde Matthew Parks- COSATU Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687