South Africa has joined Canada and a few European countries in legalizing same-sex marriage. Rather, the legislation it passed today makes marriage or civil unions gender neutral.
It is difficult to imagine a more socially conservative nation such as ours doing this anytime soon. The South African law needs a pro forma provincial approval before being signed into law.
The wire-service report said the legislation passed by a surprising 230 to 41 votes, with three abstentions. There was no word on whether opponents would file suit claiming it is unconstitutional.
This came in the form of a Civil Union Bill to the National Assembly. It allows a "voluntary union of two persons, which is solemnized and registered by either a marriage or civil union." It does not specify gender. It also gives government marriage officials the option of refusing performing same-sex unions for "conscience, religion and belief."
The ruling African National Congress supported it. During debate, Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the legislators, "When we attained our democracy, we sought to distinguish ourselves from an unjust painful past, by declaring that never again shall it be that any South African will be discriminated against on the basis of color, creed culture and sex."
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