On December 1st, South Africa's Constitutional Court extended equal rights
and responsibilities to same-sex couples and their families in a
decision that will allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry in the
next year. All 11 justices on the court ruled for marriage equality,
with one justice advocating that the ruling go into effect immediately.
"This ruling demonstrates South Africa's commitment to equality
for all of its citizens," said Seth Kilbourn, vice-president for the
Human Rights Campaign marriage project. "South Africa joins the trend
of nations around the world empowering every couple with the same tools
to protect their families, and recognizing their equal dignity as
South Africa becomes the first African nation to extend marriage
to same-sex couples. Elsewhere, Canada, Belgium, Netherlands and Spain
grant equal marriage rights. Additionally Croatia, Denmark, Finland,
France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal,
Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom all offer some
level of domestic partnership or civil union protections to same-sex
couples and their families.
The decision is the result of two cases – one filed by Marie
Adriaana Fourie and Cecelia Johanna Bonthuys and the other filed by the
Gay and Lesbian Equality Project. South Africa holds the distinction as
having the only constitution in the world that explicitly includes
protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Among the rulings supporters is Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu
Ndungane who stated, "We recognize that we live in a country which is
home to many beliefs, cultures and practices." As is the case in
Massachusetts – the only state in the U.S. where same-sex couples can
marry – Ndungane noted, "This ruling does not compel any religious
denomination or minister of religion to approve or perform same-sex
marriages, therefore it should not cause alarm."
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