THE SOUTH AFRICAN PAGAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE (SAPRA)
13 October 2006
Mr. H. P. Chauke
Chairperson: Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs
Stakeholder Public Hearing on the Civil Union Bill: the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (Sapra)
Chairperson and Members of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs
The members of the South African Pagan Rights Alliance would like to thank Mr. Chauke for extending an invitation to participate in this important public hearing. We welcome this opportunity to express our opinions on the Civil Union Bill.
The Alliance wishes firstly to express its support for the equal recognition of same-sex marriages.
We are of the opinion that the current draft Civil Union Bill and the establishment of Civil Partnerships as separate but equal to Marriage, does not faithfully fulfill the criteria of the Constitutional Court's ruling on the unconstitutionality of the Marriage Act.
Although section 13 of the Bill states "the legal consequences of a marriage shall apply to a civil partnership., it also states, "with exception of the Marriage Act", marriage includes a civil partnership.
The Bill defines a 'civil partnership' as "the union of two adult persons of the same sex", but fails to define 'marriage'. The definition of marriage in the Marriage Act does not include any reference to same-sex civil partnerships.
By omitting to clearly redefine marriage as a union between heterosexual or same-sex partners, the existing and implied definition of marriage as a union between heterosexual partners only, remains unchanged and therefore unconstitutional.
The Alliance opposes any amendment of the South African Constitution to define marriage as a union between heterosexual partners only. Such an amendment would necessarily contradict section 9 of the Bill of Rights which guarantees the right of equality for all citizens to the equal enjoyment of all rights, freedoms and benefit of the law.
It was with this right to equality and equal benefit for all in mind, that the South African Pagan Rights Alliance submitted a formal request to the Honorable Minister of Home Affairs to request an amendment of the Marriage Act. The Alliance requested the remove a discriminatory clause which prevented the Honorable Minister from recognizing Pagan candidates as religious marriage officers.
The Alliance notes that section 5 of the Civil Union Bill now permits the Honorable Minister to designate ministers of any religion or persons holding a responsible position in any designated religious institution, to be a religious marriage officer. South African Pagans welcome this important amendment.
We trust that pending and future applications for religious marriage officer status, submitted by Pagans, will be approved and that Pagan religious institutions requesting recognition from the Department of Home Affairs will be formally designated by the Honorable Minister.
Given our concerns regarding the establishment of Civil Partnerships as separate but equal to Marriage and the drafting of the Civil Union Bill as a separate but equal instrument to the Marriage Act, the Alliance anticipates that this Bill will be challenged in the Constitutional Court.
This will regrettably but understandably delay the formal recognition of Pagan marriage officers.
The Alliance wishes therefore to request that this Portfolio Committee carefully reviews both the existing draft Civil Union Bill and the Marriage Act in order to fully comply with the Constitutional Court's ruling to allow for the equal recognition of same sex marriages.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Civil Union Bill.