South Africa becomes 5th nation to legalize 'gay marriage,' joining Canada, others

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (BP)--South Africa became the fifth country to legalize "gay marriage" Nov. 30 when Acting President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka signed a landmark bill into law.

South Africa is the first African country to redefine marriage. Worldwide, Canada, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands also recognize "marriage" between homosexual couples.

"We see this as a victorious movement for the gay and lesbian community in South Africa, especially in a continent that is still scornful towards homosexuals," Vista Kalipa, media coordinator with the South African homosexual group Triangle Project, told Reuters. "We hope that other countries in Africa will actually begin to see this as a positive thing, reaffirming that homosexuality is indeed African."

Christians in the nation, though, saw it otherwise.

"The Civil Union Bill justifies immorality and by inference calls sexual perversion a legitimate alternative lifestyle that should be openly accepted," the South African Christian Action Network said in a statement. "It calls immorality and perversion true virtue and commendable freedom."

The new law redefines marriage to include "the voluntary union of two persons." It became law one year after the nation's highest court interpreted the constitution to require "gay marriage" to be legalized. The justices gave the African National Congress government one year to implement its decision.

South Africa's constitution is one of the most liberal in the world and bans discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation." When the court issued its decision last December, Kenneth Meshoe, president of the African Christian Democratic Party, noted that his party voted against the constitution when it passed in the mid-1990s.

"I warned the [African National Congress] that by including the ‘sexual orientation’ clause they were aiming at redefining marriage, [and] the ANC said they would never redefine marriage, [so] therefore they must take the blame for the moral degeneration of the country and breakdown of the family,” Meshoe said.

In September thousands of Christians marched in South African cities, urging the government not to pass the bill. Some South Africans, including the ACDP, called for a constitutional amendment banning "gay marriage," but to no avail.

Mlambo-Ngcuka signed the bill in the absence of President Thabo Mbeki, who was in Nigeria, Reuters reported.


-- Compiled by Michael Foust

For more information about the national debate over "gay marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage