All-clear for same-sex couples to tie the knot

Same-sex couples can now legally getmarried.

Same-sex couples can now legally getmarried.

The Civil Union Bill was signed into law by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka yesterday.

Mlambo-Ngcuka approved the legislation in her capacity as acting president during President Thabo Mbeki's absence. He is attending a conference in Nigeria.

The new act regulates the solemnisation and registration of civil unions: either marriages or a civil partnership, and provides for the legal consequences of the solemnisation and registration of civil unions.

This is in line with the constitutional court judgment in December last year in the case of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project and eighteen others litigating against the minister of Home Affairs and others.

The court found that the common law definition of marriage in the Marriage Act of 1961 was inconsistent with the constitution, and invalid to the extent that it did not permit same-sex couples to enjoy the status, benefits and responsibilities it accords to heterosexual couples.

The court set a deadline of December 1 this year for legislative amendments to be made.

Following extensive public hearings on the issue - during which the bill was strenuously opposed by religious and other groups - the national assembly adopted the bill last Tuesday and the national council of provinces a week later.

The bill was opposed by most of the country's opposition parties, but the DA allowed its members a free vote on the controversial measure. - Sapa