Thursday, December 01, 2005

Marriage Equality: South Africa 

South Africa's Constitutional Court today ruled on the case in which the plaintiffs claimed that South Africa's definition of marriage as being one man-one woman violated the nation's constitutional provision of equality for GLBT individuals. The high court affirmed the appellate court's decision that yes, this is unconstitutional discrimination, and gave Parliament one year to change the marriage laws accordingly. If Parliament fails to act, the court's ruling will go into effect on its own and the country will have marriage equality.

This is similar to the approach in Massachusetts, where the Supreme Judicial Court stayed its order in Goodridge for six months to allow the legislature to take appropriate action in line with the decision.

During arguments in the case, the government's lawyer met with laughter from citizens in attendance when he made the following groundless arguments:
"Same-sex partnerships are a relatively new phenomena," said the Department of Home Affairs' advocate Marumo Moerane, sparking laughter in the packed gallery. He then said that, "We don't know whether single-sex relationships involve the idea of mutual support."

Stay tuned over the coming months to see if parliament acts earlier than the deadline. Otherwise, hopefully in one year at the latest Mr. Moerane will see a demonstration of people in single-sex relationships committing themselves to mutual support. Or he could just look at Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium or Massachusetts. Or he could just look to the victorious plaintiffs in the case he just lost.
UPDATE (12/2/05): The 111-page opinion is now available online. Thanks to opinio juris, who also has an extensive discussion of the court's discussion of international law on the issue.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:19 AM