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15 Nov 2006

Finally.........
PRESS STATEMENT: JOINT WORKING GROUP RESPONSE TO PASSING OF CIVIL UNION ACT

14 November 2006

The Joint Working Group, a national network of 17 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organisations, welcomes the historic step taken by Parliament to allow lesbian and gay people the choice to get married. Unlike earlier versions of the Civil Union Bill, the statute that has been passed no longer creates a separate category for lesbian and gay people exclusively but rather broadens the institution of marriage to include same-sex couples. In keeping with the transformation of our society from one based on unfair discrimination and exclusion to one based on equality and dignity for all, our elected representatives have signaled their strong commitment to ensuring that the values of our Constitution are made real for all people irrespective of their sexual orientation.

The Joint Working Group asserts that at least one section in the Civil Union Act is unconstitutional and vulnerable to legal challenge. Section 6 allows civil marriage officers to object to marrying lesbian and gay people on the grounds of conscience.

Although we welcome the fact that domestic partnerships will be regulated separately to marriage, the Joint Working Group urges government to act speedily to pass legislation that protects individuals who, for reason of choice or circumstance, are not able to access the legal benefits of marriage.

The process of deliberation surrounding the Civil Union Bill has shown that many South Africans harbour deep prejudice and intolerance against lesbian and gay people. Many people have shown their failure to understand the separation of religion and state and even to understand the fundamental rights and values of our Constitution. The Joint Working Group calls on the government to take a leadership role and to develop public education programmes. Such programmes should be aimed at deepening the commitment of all South Africans to honouring and embracing diversity whether it be in relation to race, gender or sexual orientation. The Joint Working Group pledges its commitment to working with government and all other stakeholders towards this end. For, we believe that equality does not exist on a sliding scale: it either exists for all or for none.

ISSUED BY THE JOINT WORKING GROUP, A NATIONAL NETWORK OF LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER ORGANISATIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA

Contact Person: Glenn de Swardt, Triangle Project, Telephone (+27) (+21) 448 3812
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Please note that the above is an abridged version of the original press statement.
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