SA gets first gay wedding

The new Bill, which allows marriages between same sex couples, was signed into law by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka two weeks ago, and immediately triggered expectations of a flurry of same sex unions.

Mlambo-Ngcuka authorised the Bill in her capacity as acting president two weeks ago, with President Thabo Mbeki away on a state visit to Nigeria.

The law makes South Africa the only country in Africa, and only the fifth in the world to allow same-sex marriages, which have come amid vehement criticism and resistance from political parties and religious groups in the country.

On December 1, Vernon Gibbs and Tony Halls became the first gay couple to tie the knot in South Africa, only a day after the law had been made official.

The two were wedded by George marriage officer Petro Kruger.

“It was so amazing. So quick and easy. I can’t believe it. I am so happy,” Gibbs told the South African Press Association (Sapa) after the ceremony.

“After all the trouble it was so amazing to be able to do something like this and everyone was so supportive.

“We have been planning indirectly for this for about eight months but it was only last night that we got confirmation from home affairs that they could do it today,” he said.

Despite widespread concerns that are still being voiced about gay marriages, Gibbs and Halls’ wedding was reportedly heavily attended, with some of the guests keen to satisfy their curiosity over the historic event. Several people in the country are still struggling to come to terms with the new law, and have expressed disappointment in the government for sanctioning what they believe to be a morally questionable legislation.

The 38-year-old Aaron Ramodumo said even though the bill had been passed into law it would still be difficult for many people to accept.

“By approving this legislation, this house is at odds with the wishes of a majority of South Africans who have overwhelmingly rejected it,” Inkatha Freedom Party Member of Parliament Jeanette Vilakazi said.

“It may be that it (same sex marriage) is now allowed by the law but I still don’t think that it is right.

“It goes against my religion and our traditions and personally i think that it is just not right. It was never meant to be that way,” Ramodumo said.

Religious and traditional groups have been among the most outspoken critics of the new legislation and have argued that it should be debated further when parliament re-opens next year.

The traditional chiefs believe the new law will permit behaviour and interaction that they believe is “unAfrican”.

But while the debate rages on there has apparently been a rush for gay and lesbian marriages.

Hotels and jewellery shops have started offering “pink wedding” services catering specifically for gay couples.

The Department of Home Affairs says it is still trying to determine how many applications have been made for marriages under the civil unions law.

The new legislation stipulates that applications must first be made to the department before a gay or lesbian couple can be married.

Gibbs and Halls said their marriage, which took place on World Aids day, was also dedicated to people living with HIV/Aids.

“This marriage is not just for Tony and I. It is for all [people living with] HIV/Aids and gay people who have experienced discrimination,” Gibbs said.

December 2006
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