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    November 14, 2006

    Wedding bells in South Africa

    Posted by: Chris

    How is it a country on the "the backward continent" has managed to figure out the marriage issue before the land of the free and the home of the brave? South Africa today enacted legislation that allows all couples, gay and straight, the option of marrying or entering into civil partnerhips.

    By a vote of 230-41, South Africa joins the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada as the countries where gay couples truly have all the same relationship rights as straight couples. (The U.K. has gone the Vermont route, offering "civil partnerships" to gay couples while keeping "marriage" for the straights.) And South Africa, which is the only country in the world to have written equality for gays explicitly into its constitution, has gone one step further: By offering all couples the option of marriage or civil partnerships, they've threaded the needle of the "M-word" issue that has so many heterosexuals so flummoxed.

    Way back in 2000, when then-Gov. Howard Dean signed the first-ever civil union legislation in Vermont, I wrote that civil unions provided a nice way out of the marriage issue. Government should get out of the marrying business entirely, I wrote then, and instead offer civil unions to couples gay and straight alike.

    Looking back, it's unrealistic to think straight couples would give up civil marriage so that gay couples could be treated equally, so perhaps the South African compromise was the way to go. Memo to legislators in New Jersey: the South Africans acted in response to a high court ruling much like the one your court issued last month.

    UPDATE: It turns out the legislation, which was forced by a court opinion much like the one in Massachusetts back in 2003, must still pass two more hurdles before becoming law: the Council of Provinces must vote for it and President Thabo Mbeki must sign it. Both are expected, however, because the ruling African National Congress strongly backs the measure.



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    1. Anthony von Reichert on Apr 20, 2009 5:18:52 AM:

      I remember stepping off the plane like it was yesterday and feeling so happy and proud to be moving to a country that aproved a partnership visa for me to enter South Africa to be with my South African fiance who happens to also be male. I was sad that I had to leave my home country of America to do so, but happy non the less. We were married on February 29, 2008 and for almost 2 years now we have been happy in our marriage. Will the dream once again be shattered? Two days from now on April 22, 2009 South Africa will vote in its next presedential election. With the ANC a sure win, it is most likely at this point that Jacob Zuma will become the next president of South Africa on Wednesday moring. With that being said, gay married South Africans are worried and rightfully so. Jacob Zuma has made it quite clear that he believes gay marriage to be a discrace to South Africa and has vowed to have it repealed. Just days agoi he began urgin church leaders to use their power and voice to pass legislation to repeal same sex marriage. My personal fear of this is two fold. Not only could I be facing the forced disolvement of my marriage, but then I would most certainly have to leave my husband behind in South Africa. As a foreigner I am only in South Africa because I was granted a spousal visa. With out that visa and a legally recognized marriage I would be forced to leave once my spousal visa is not renewed. With America also not recognizing my marriage, where does that leave me and my husband beside seperated by a huge ocean?

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