Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
10 November 2006

Weird Civil Union compromise

The compromise Civil Union Bill, devised by the ANC study group and approved by the Home Affairs Porfolio Committee yesterday, is a weird piece of legislation. It creates a Civil Union open to anyone which can be “registered by way of either marriage or a civil partnership”.

This means that heterosexuals will be able to get married either via the Marraige Act or the Civil Union Bill while homosexuals can only get married via th elatter legislation. But for anyone who, for some bizarre reason or another, wishes not to get married but to conclude a civil partnership only, the Civil Union Bill will be the only legislation that one could rely on.

Obviously those in the ANC who wanted to adhere to the Constitutional Court judgement and who understood that anything less than marriage for same-sex couples would not do, managed to convince the Johnny De Lange’s of the world to explicitly provide for “marriage” in the Bill. But in return they had to the ridiculous option of either registering a civil partnership or a marriage.

How many people will actually register a civil partnership instead of a marriage? Can’t imagine who would do such a thing.

But perhaps the new version will pass constitutional muster because it does provide for same-sex marriage, albeit in a seperate law. But because the law is open to all – not just same-sex couples, and because it allows same-sex couples to register a marriage, it probably provide for the protection of same-sex relationship in a sufficient manner.

Section 6, however, is most probably unconstitututional. It allows non-religious marraige officers from refusing to solmnisise a marriage for religious reasons. Poor same-sex couples in small conservative towns will find it difficult to get anyone to marry them. Surely its not acceptable.

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