Press Room

December 01, 2005

Category: Civil Unions

South Africa Ruling Extends Marriage Equality to Same-Sex Couples

'This ruling demonstrates South Africa's commitment to equality for all of its citizens,' said Human Rights Campaign Marriage Project Vice President Seth Kilbourn.

WASHINGTON - South Africa's Constitutional Court extended equal rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples and their families today 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 citizens."

South Africa becomes the first African nation to extend marriage to same-sex couples. Elsewhere, Canada, Belgium, the 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 Marié Adriaana Fourie and Cecelia Johanna Bonthuys and the other filed by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Project. South Africa holds the distinction of having the only constitution in the world that explicitly includes protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Among the ruling's 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 United States 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."

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country.It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

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