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South Africa: Civil Registrars Will Have to Marry Same-sex Couples in the Future

(Blogmensgo, gay blog of December 9, 2018) On December 6, 2018, the South African National Assembly approved a change of law that no longer allows registrars to refuse gay and lesbian wedding ceremonies under a pretext. The amendment introduced in August 2018 by MEP Deirdre Carter repeals paragraph 6 of the 2006 law, which previously allowed civil servants not to marry same-sex couples if this was contrary to their conscience, religion or belief. However, this amendment will only fully enter into force in two years.

Deirdre Carter

Deirdre Carter. ©twitter.com/0deidre

As foreseen in the original amendment, only registrars are obliged to perform same-sex marriages. The amendment does not apply to pastors, priests, etc. who will still be allowed to refuse same-sex marriage ceremonies in private places like churches, temples, mosques etc.

Almost all parties in the National Assembly voted in favor of the text, with the exception of three smaller parties, which presented religious or clearly homophobic arguments. This is only the second time in this legislature that a legislative amendment introduced by the opposition has been submitted to the Head of State for ratification, with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) also voting in favor of the amendment. Two of the parties (Democratic Alliance and Inkatha Freedom Party) had also expressed their support for the amendment and are now protesting against the delayed entry into force of the amendment.

The amendment will only come into force in two years’ time, so the Ministry of the Interior has time to train and prepare officials who are currently opposed to same-sex marriage for their role. Of the 409 registry offices, most still reject homosexual couples, and 88% of registrars only marry straight couples.


In red: Homophobic registry offices – quite a few still… ©Triangle Project

This is why a transitional and training period of 24 months has been introduced during which the registrars have the choice between two versions of the same law.

However, the amendment also provides that during this two-year transitional period each registry office is obliged to offer homosexual couples a registrar who will perform their same-sex marriage.

Frank-S / MensGo

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