Repealing Section 6 of the Civil Union Act

Friday December 6 is your deadline to indicate your support for repealing Section 6 of the Civil Union Act (via the Civil Union Amendment Bill), and you can do so by writing to Mr Zolani Rento ( or Mr G Dixon ( I’ve offered some reasons to support the repeal before, and repeat the invitation made in that post to copy and paste whatever you like from it in your submission.

You can read the Civil Union Amendment Bill on the Parliamentary Monitoring Group’s website, but it’s a very simple Bill that only does three things:

  • It repeals section 6 of the Act, “which allows a marriage officer to inform the Minister that he or she objects on the ground of conscience, religion, and belief to solemnising a civil union between persons of the same sex”
  • It stipulates that any exemptions granted to marriage officers, allowing them to object to solemnising same-sex marriages, will lapse 24 months from the date of commencement of the amended Act. (This allows for homophobes to find other jobs, lose their prejudice, or simply learn to cope with this aspect of their jobs.)
  • In a second transitional clause of the Bill, the “Minister must ensure that there is a marriage officer … available to solemnise a civil union at every Department of Home Affairs office”.

There is nothing complicated (or in my view, controversial) about this, and I’m not much persuaded by the fulminations of the Family Policy Institute and other “Christian” lobby-groups.

State officials need to apply the law, and the law (in this case, the Constitution) says that you cannot discriminate on the grounds of (inter alia) sexual orientation. This doesn’t impact on freedom of religion – you can still be a homophobe if you think that’s what God wants – you simply can’t be a homophobe who also works for the Department of Home Affairs in a capacity that requires you to solemnise civil unions.

There is one strange thing about the Bill, though. It contains (after a lengthy and very good preamble, that fully articulates the good reasons for repealing Section 6) this matter-of-fact claim:


The Bill does not hold any financial implications for the State.

So, I take it that the Department of Home Affairs has perfected that teleportation technology they have been working on, and can now pluck willing officials from their jobs in the leafy suburbs and replant them in a distant dustbowl (rural and poor areas being the places where we’re most likely to find officials who are unwilling to solemnise same-sex unions).

That’s good news, at least, and also something that should go a long way to addressing the problems at South African Airways.

By Jacques Rousseau

Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is the founder and director of the Free Society Institute, a non-profit organisation promoting secular humanism and scientific reasoning.