Gay Weddings in South Africa

By The Celebration Team 23 Feb, 2010

Gay Weddings in South Africa

Ever since the hallmark ceremony that saw Vernon Gibbs hitched to Tony Halls in South Africa’s first gay wedding, just a day after the government legalised same-sex marriages in the country in November 2006, South Africa - for obvious reasons that include some of the most enviable venues, scenery and beaches in the world - has become an enormously sought-after location for gay marriages. Cape Town’s thriving gay culture in particular has established it as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the World. The sheer value for money and first-class accommodation available make the vibrant city an obvious choice, whilst the weather is an added bonus.

How does gay marriages work in SA?

The terms of the Civil Union Act hold that anyone 18 years or older may enter into a civil union – essentially a legal formalisation of a relationship between two people. The civil union must be formalised by either an official or a minister registered to do so.

What is the Civil Union Act?

  • the Civil Union Act is a new legal relationship, written exclusively for same-sex couples and completely different from marriage
  • couples marrying in terms of the Civil Union Act may choose whether their union is called a civil partnership or a marriage partnership
  • when a couple is joined in a marriage partnership in terms of this act they enjoy the same privileges as couples married in terms of the Marriage Act of 1961

However, if either you or your partner is already involved in a registered marriage in terms of the Marriage Act, you may not enter into a civil union.

Who performs civil unions?

Civil unions are carried out by ministers or officiates who have applied to be designated as officers able to conduct civil unions – they need to write an exam first. However, state officials (home affairs) who already conduct marriages in terms of the Marriage Act may perform civil unions regardless.

As a couple you also need to decide the following:

  • whether to be married in or out of community of property
  • which names you will choose
  • the terms of your ante-nuptial contract (the same fundamentals apply as for any other married couple, and in terms of owning property together, this is very important)

Are gay weddings in SA recognised overseas?

Marriage for partners from countries abroad is not necessarily valid in their country of origin. For some, their union is valid only for the duration of their holiday here in South Africa – the fifth country, after Spain, Belgium, Canada and the Netherlands, to legalise same-sex unions officially.

For instance, for South African marriages to be valid in the UK its Civil Partnership Act of 2004 (which grants same-sex couples rights and responsibilities identical to civil marriage, and legally recognises their relationship) needs amending to recognise SA unions. However, the fact that SA marriage is equivalent to a heterosexual union is very appealing, far more so than the UK civil partnership, which only gives couples the same rights in areas like tax, social security, inheritance and workplace benefits.

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