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15 November 2006 @ 01:46 am
YAY SOUTH AFRICA!!!  
I just sent out an all-STARS email about this, but figured I'd celebrate it here on our forum as well. South Africa is taking steps to legalize same-sex marriage! This is BIG NEWS in our community, whether we are gay or just gay-friendly. Let's give a shout out to them! :)

Sarah Bastien
STARS secretary

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From The New York Times


South African Parliament Approves Gay Marriages


By SHARON LaFRANIERE
Published: November 14, 2006


JOHANNESBURG, Nov. 14 — South Africa’s Parliament overwhelmingly voted today to legalize same-sex marriages, making the nation the first in Africa and the fifth in the world to remove legal barriers to gay and lesbian unions, according to activists.


The legislature voted after the nation’s highest court ruled that South Africa’s marriages statutes violated the constitution’s guarantee of equal rights. The court gave the government a year to amend the legal definition of marriage. That deadline expires in two weeks.


Melanie Judge, program manager for OUT, a gay rights advocacy group, noted that the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada were the only other countries to allow same-sex marriages nationwide. In most African nations, she said, homosexuality is still treated as a crime. Some penalties are stiffer than those for rape or murder..


Ms. Judge credited South Africa’s liberal constitution with forcing change.


“This has been a litmus test of our constitutional values,” she said in a telephone interview. “What does equality really mean? What does it look like? Equality does not exist on a sliding scale.”


Religious groups and traditional leaders strenuously opposed the measure, arguing that if necessary the constitution should be amended to outlaw same-sex unions. But the ruling African National Congress virtually demanded that lawmakers support the bill.


Despite deep divisions within the party, the measure passed 230 to 41. It must now be approved by the Council of Provinces, a quasi-federal chamber, and be signed the president to become law.


Vytjie Mentor, the party’s caucus chairman, told the South African newspaper The Sunday Independent earlier this month that he expected legislators belonging to the African National Congress to vote for the measure, regardless of their personal views.


There is “no such thing as a free vote or a vote of conscience,” he said. “How do you give someone permission to discriminate in the name of the A.N.C.? How do you allow for someone to vote against the constitution and the policies of the A.N.C., which is antidiscrimination?”


The new law allows both heterosexual and same-sex couples to register their unions either as marriages or civil partnerships. But in a concession to critics, it also allows civil officers to refuse to marry same-sex couples on the basis on conscience. Ms. Judge, the gay rights advocate, predicted that provision will be challenged in court.


“We can’t be in the situation where civil officers can decide who they want to marry and who they don’t want to marry,” she said. “They aren’t able to refuse to marry a black person and a white person. This is unconstitutional.”

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Oh and P.S.: Thanks to all who came to the concert on Monday night. I hear it went very well.
 
 
I feel like being: proud
I'm dancing to: Nervous But Excited