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Gay Marriage in South Africa

First religious gay marriage

Quotes about
gay marriage

Gay marriage should
not be legalised

First gay marriage on TV

First televised gay marriage

First gay divorce

1 Dec 2006

Vernon Gibbs (38) and Tony Halls (52) get married in South Africa's first gay marriage. The couple tie the knot in the home affairs building in George, a town in the the Western Cape province of South Africa. The marriage officer was Petro Kruger, a Home Affairs Official.

29 Nov 2006

South Africa's Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka signs the Civil Union Act 2006, making gay marriages legal. South Africa becomes the first country in Africa (and the fifth in the world after the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada) to legalise gay marriages. Mlambo-Ngcuka signed the Act in the absence of President Thabo Mbeki, who was on an official trip to Nigeria.

28 Nov 2006

Despite some opposition, the Civil Union Act 2006 is passed by South Africa's National Council of Provinces. "According to black African culture, the marriage of a male to another male or a female to another female is taboo. It is simply not done lest we infuriate the gods," said Johannes Tlhagale of the United Christian Democratic Party.

13 Nov 2006

The Civil Union Act 2006 is passed by South Africa's lower house, the National Assembly, on a 230 to 41 vote (there are 400 seats); with one ANC MP (JP Phungula of Ixopo in KwaZulu-Natal) abstaining in defiance of party bosses who had ordered that all ruling ANC MPs should vote in favour. The official opposition, Democratic Alliance (DA), allowed its MPs a free vote - most DA MPs voted "yes", with Joe Seremane abstaining and the handful of DA MPs voting "no" including Marius Swart, Ryno King, Willem Doman and Hendry Cupido. The Independent Democrats voted "no" because they believed the bill was unconstitutional, because it allowed civil marriage officers to refuse to officiate at a gay marriage on the grounds of conscience. At least one observer cheered while Members of Parliament delivered their speeches.

South Africa's Minister of Home Affairs, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, presented the bill to the National Assembly; "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 would be discriminated against on the basis of color, creed, culture and sex."

"The roots of this bill lie in many years of struggle...This country cannot afford to be a prison of timeworn prejudices which have no basis in modern society. Let us bequeath to future generations a society which is more democratic and tolerant than the one that was handed down to us," Defense Minister Mosuia Lekota.

"Marriage is an institution created by God between a man and a woman. That is why God created Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve," Corne Mulder.

"Only those who have sold their souls to cultural imperialism will support this obscenity," Motsuoko Pheko, a delegate from the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania.

1 Dec 2005

The Constitutional Court of South Africa issued a ruling that the exclusion of gay marriages in South African law "represented a harsh if oblique statement by the law that same-sex couples are outsiders, and that their need for affirmation and protection of their intimate relations as human beings is somehow less than that of heterosexual couples." The court was quiet as Judge Albie Sachs read the judgement, applause fizzling out as people turned to hug each other. The court gave parliament one year to change the current definition of marriage (which says the union is between a husband and wife), failing which the law would be automatically changed to include gay unions (the court ruling states that there will be "minimal textual alteration" to the current Marriage Act. Words such as "husband" in the Marriage Act will be replaced by the word "spouse").

Full text of Constitutional Court judgement on gay marriage.

30 Nov 2004

Bloemfontein's Supreme Court of Appeal rules in favour of Marie Fourie and Celia Bonthuys who want to be legally married. However, the couple cannot register their marriage and so they take the matter to the Constitutional Court.

18 Oct 2002

An application by Marie Fourie and Celia Bonthuys for same sex marriages to be legalised and registered is dismissed by a Pretoria High Court judge (Pierre Roux).

10 Sep 2002

The Constitutional Court rules that gay and lesbian couples may jointly adopt.

2 Feb 2000

President Mbeki assents to the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act No 4 of 2000. This reaffirms that no person may be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.


Immigrant partners of South African gays and lesbians are allowed to apply for permanent residence.

9 Oct 1998

Sodomy between 2 consenting adult men is decriminalised.

8 May 1996

South Africa's final constitution is adopted which entrenches the Bill of Rights.

27 Apr 1994

South Africa's new post-apartheid interim constitution comes into effect and the Bill of Rights makes clear that "No person shall be unfairly discriminated against, directly or indirectly, and, without derogating from the generality of this provision, on one or more of the following ground in particular: race, gender, sex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture or language." (the first bill in the world to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation).

Gay pride parade - Jhb, Sep 2006


Denmark becomes the first country to legislate gay partnerships.


South Africa enacts its Marriage Act of 1961.

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