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"Same-sex marriage legal in South Africa"
This media release was issued by Australian Marriage Equality on November 16th, 2006.
The South African Parliament voted on Tuesday to legalise same-sex marriage by a margin of 230 to 41 votes.
Australian Marriage Equality (AME) has welcomed the legislation and praised those who fought so hard for equality.
"Many in South Africa have been keenly awaiting this day following last year's ruling from the Constitutional Court. We are thrilled the day has finally arrived," said AME national convener, Sharon Dane.
On 1 December 2005 the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled unanimously that it was unconstitutional to prevent same-sex couples marrying when marriage was permitted for opposite-sex couples.
The Government, however, responded this year with the Civil Unions Bill but was accused of providing a controversial 'separate but equal' format.
The Government subsequently amended its proposed legislation to provide for the "voluntary union of two persons, which is solemnised and registered by either a marriage or civil union."
Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula sponsored the Bill through the National Assembly. "When we attained our democracy, we sought to distinguish ourselves from an unjust painful past, by declaring that never again shall it be that any South African will be discriminated against on the basis of colour, creed, culture and sex," she declared.
"The roots of this bill lie in many years of struggle", said Defence Minister Mosuia Lekota, who reminded lawmakers that many homosexuals went into exile and prison with ANC members during white rule.
Speaking in support of the Bill, Deputy Justice Minister Johnny de Lange said: "We are doing what we decided 12 years ago when we passed the clause in the constitution that said that there could be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."
Before the vote, an editorial in South Africa's Mail and Guardian argued that: "[I]n a secular democracy such as ours, it's not the representatives of [some] religions who should have the casting vote in this debate. Their own freedoms...are protected by our constitution. They have no place denying gay South Africans the right to equality and dignity promised in the constitution....[T]hat's...what it's all about, plain and simple: the equality of all human beings, and the right we all have to be treated with dignity...[W]e didn't uproot apartheid [only] to plant another tree of inequality in its stead....I can already picture the park benches, sprayed with a twist on that hoary old prohibition: 'Straights only.'"
Passage of the Bill by the National Council of Provinces is expected in the next few days.
"Once again, Australia is being left behind. It is time same-sex couples here received the same equality and recognition they will now receive in South Africa", said AME convener, Sharon Dane.
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