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No constitutional amendment on same-sex marriages

South Africa's Constitution

The Constitution may not be ammended, according toa Parliamentary committee

August 16, 2006, 15:00

A constitutional amendment making it possible for same-sex couples to get married is not on the cards. So says the chairperson of Parliament's portfolio committee on home affairs. Some opposition parties are calling for an amendment to the Constitution, and not to the Marriage Act.

And if the chairperson has his way the Bill will go before Parliament by October, in time to beat the Constitutional Court deadline. The country's highest court ruled last year that Parliament should amend the 1961 Marriage Act by December.

Currently, the common law defines marriage as "the union of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of others". The court ruled that this was unconstitutional and invalid because it didn't permit same sex partners to enjoy the same status. Seven months later Parliament is working round-the-clock to meet the deadline.

Patrick Chauke, the chairperson of the home affairs committee, says: “If Cabinet goes through the Bill, we will have a briefing and then can be in a position in a month to deal with the issue.”

Parties split over Bill
It's an emotional issue for many, the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) is already insisting on a constitutional change. Kenneth Meshoe, the Reverend who heads the ACDP, says: “We believe the right thing to do is to amend the Constitution to make it clear that marriage is between a male and a female.”

Marius Swart, DA MP and former George mayor, says: “If you change the Constitution, you will be infringing on the rights of the individual and you could land into trouble.”

The amended legislation could also include unions across religious backgrounds. One of the proposals on the table is a new generic marriage act based on the current act which will give legal recognition to all marriage's including those of same sex couples and heterosexual couples. Public hearings have been scheduled for September.

Click here to send this article to a friend     Click here for a printable version of this article     Video report on the ammendments to the Marriage Act    
Catholic Church says no to gay marriages (December 02, 2005, 16:00)
Gay marriage ruling debasing, says church (February 01, 2006, 17:15)
Same-sex marriages threat to democracy: Masa (May 11, 2005, 17:45)
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