Gay Marriage in South Africa

South Africa has recently become only the fifth country, and the first in Africa, to legalize same-sex marriages.

The legal process that culminated in this remarkable outcome went through South Africa's High Court, Supreme Court and eventually the Constitutional Court. South Africa's liberal constitution, the first in the world to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, is a testiment to the spirit of reconciliation that allowed the country to peacefully overcome the racial divisions of apartheid.

There are still divisions though, and the South African gay marriage law was controversial. Conservative Christians, Muslims and African traditionalists all opposed same-sex marriages. One of the grooms in the first, largely traditional, religious marriage dismissed claims that marriage between gay men or lesbians is un-African by saying "I am who God created me to be. I am an African, no matter who says what. We are not all the same. God created us to be different."

"There will be a huge response from same-sex couples who have waited such a long time for their relationship to be recognized," said Melanie Judge of the lesbian and gay project, OUT.

The South African government, despite some opposition from within its own ranks, came out in support of gay marriage. The Minister of Defence equated discrimination against gays with apartheid: "We have no right to preserve for ourselves, purely because of the majority of our numbers, the exclusive right to marriage while we deny others that same right."