We are aware that there is much misinformation about FOR SA's position on the Marriage Bill (and what it entails) doing the rounds.
To bring clarity we have written this statement which sets out the present laws and what this Bill actually does.
1. The battle for the word "marriage":
The Civil Union Act already contains a gender-neutral formula (see sec 11) and allows parties to decide whether they want their union to be known as a marriage or a civil partnership (see sec 11 of the Act, and specifically sec (11)(1)). This law was passed in 2006 - already calls same-sex unions "marriages".... so the battle for the word "marriage" to be limited to heterosexual, monogamous relationships was lost 17 years ago.
2. Polygamous marriages:
The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, 1998 legalises polygamous marriages (where there is one husband and many wives).
The Bill suggests:
1. What the minimum requirements for concluding a marriage should be (age, consent and legal capacity);
2. Expands who can be a marriage officer (allowing anyone holding a responsible position in an organisation to apply);
3. Allows for a marriage officer to solemnise a marriage in accordance with any practice (the Bill therefore does not contain a marriage formula / any clause relating to what the wording for solemnisation should be); and
4. When it comes to polygamous marriages, these remain between a husband and wives, with the husband having to obtain his existing wives' consent before taking another wife etc.
FOR SA's position:
As a legal advocacy group, FOR SA is faith and doctrinally neutral. Our perspective is to look at the legal lie of the land and then to pick a strategy and a course of action to defend and uphold religious freedom.... in this case, to ensure that no religious or civil marriage officer is compelled to conduct any form of solemnisation ceremony in violation of their conscience.
What you can do:
Faith communities may certainly have concerns with the Bill beyond our scope and they are obviously entitled to voice them and to press for whatever amendments they desire. FOR SA therefore keeps on encouraging everyone to have their say on this law before 31 August 2023.
You can also find more information on this Bill and a template downloadable submission setting out the concerns which - in our view - are important contributions to ensure that religious freedom rights are upheld and protected - particularly for religious marriage officers.
Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) is dedicated to protecting and preserving the freedoms and rights that the South African Constitution has granted to the faith community. If you have found this helpful, please consider supporting the work of FOR SA to protect our constitutional right to enjoy the freedom of religion by: