LGBTQI rights activists are pushing South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize to call for an amendment to repeal Section 6 of the Civil Union Act, which allows marriage officials to refuse to marry same-sex couples due to their personal religious or cultural beliefs.
Despite same-sex marriage becoming legal in 2006, this exemption has presented barriers for many same-sex couples looking to marry. 421 of 1,130 marriage officers have claimed exemptions under this provision. Repealing this part of the Act would prohibit discrimination based on the grounds of “conscience, religion or belief.”
Matthew Clayton, Research, Advocacy and Policy Coordinator at Triangle Project, Victory Institute’s partner in South Africa, believes that changing the law is important for true equality, and the minister’s response shows “a continued lack of willingness to deal with human rights abuses in the department.”
The department has been holding sensitivity trainings on LGBTQI issues for marriage officials, but without an amendment to the existing law, they can still decide against marrying same-sex couples.
The Victory Institute and the Triangle Project are working to strengthen LGBTQI political participation in South Africa by training LGBTQI leaders to run for public office. Discriminatory laws like Section 6 show the need for more openly LGBTQI officials in all levels of government to fight to protect their rights.