South Africa to legalize same-sex marriage

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

South Africa's national assembly has passed bill 230-41 legalizing same-sex marriage in that country. The bill allows for the voluntary civil union or marriage between two people. It does not specify the orientation or sex of the people involved.

It was passed just in time to meet the Constitutional Court deadline of December 1, set forth by its ruling of December last year which said the current marriage law is unconstitutional.

The bill is being hailed by gay and liberal activists as another step forward out of the country's apartheid past, while at the same time religious clergy and traditional lawmakers are stating that the passage of the bill is "the saddest day in our 12 years of democracy." Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed has said the bill is a "foreign action imposed on Africa".

Homosexuality is overwhelmingly illegal on the African continent, and even in countries such as South Africa it is not unusual for gays to be persecuted and attacked for their orientation.

Now that the bill has passed the National Assembly with a vote of 230-41 its next stop is the National Council of Provinces where its passage is widely expected on its way to being signed by President Thabo Mbeki.