Quote of the week

It is necessary that the integrity of the electoral process be maintained. Indeed, the acceptance of the election as being free and fair depends upon that integrity. Elections must not only be free and fair but they must be perceived as being free and fair. Even-handedness in dealing with all political parties and candidates is crucial to that integrity and its perception by voters. The Commission must not be placed in a situation where it has to make ad hoc decisions about political parties and candidates who have not complied with the Act. The requirement that documents must be submitted to the local offices of the Commission does not undermine the right to vote and to stand for election. It simply gives effect to that right and underscores the decentralised and local nature of municipal elections.

Ngcobo CJ
Electoral Commission of the Republic of South Africa v Inkatha Freedom Party
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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