Same-sex marriage has been legal in South Africa since the Civil Union Act came into force on 30 November 2006. The decision of the Constitutional Court in the case of Minister of Home Affairs v Fourie on 1 December 2005 extended the common-law definition of marriage to include same-sex spouses—as the Constitution of South Africa guarantees equal protection before the law to all citizens regardless of sexual orientation—and gaveParliament one year to rectify the inequality in the marriage statutes. On 14 November 2006, the National Assembly passed a law allowing same-sex couples to legally marry 230 to 41, which was subsequently approved by the National Council of Provinces on 28 November in a 36 to 11 vote, and the law came into effect two days later.
South Africa was the fifth country, the first (and only, as of January 2016) in Africa, the first in the southern hemisphere, the first republic, and the second outside Europe to legalise same-sex marriage.
Three laws currently provide for the status of marriage in South Africa. These are the Marriage Act (Act 25 of 1961), which provides for civil or religious opposite-sex marriages; the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act (Act 120 of 1998), which provides for the civil registration of marriages solemnised according to the traditions of indigenous groups; and the Civil Union Act (Act 17 of 2006), which provides for opposite-sex and same-sex civil marriages, religious marriages and civil partnerships. A person may only be married under one of these laws at any given time.
Couples marrying in terms of the Civil Union Act may choose whether their union is registered as a marriage or a civil partnership. In either case, the legal consequences are identical to those of a marriage under the Marriage Act, except for such changes as are required by the context. Any reference to marriage in any law, including the common law, is deemed to include a marriage or civil partnership in terms of the Civil Union Act; similarly, any reference to husband, wife or spouse in any law is deemed to include a reference to a spouse or civil partner in terms of the Civil Union Act.
According to the South African government, over 3,000 same-sex couples had married in South Africa by mid-2010. Statistics South Africa reports that a total of 3,327 marriages and civil partnerships were registered under the Civil Union Act up to the end of 2011; however, this figure only reflects marriages in which at least one of the spouses is a South African citizen or permanent resident. Further, not all marriages under the Civil Union Act are between partners of the same sex, though most opposite-sex couples continue to marry under the 1961 Marriage Act. Many new couples meet through online gay dating in South Africa.
The Statistics South Africa data are further broken down by province and year; they show that the majority of Civil Union Act marriages were registered in Gauteng or the Western Cape.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Same-sex marriage in South Africa, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.