The ANC, divided on the issue, just resolved it:
In a major about turn, the African National Congress (ANC) in Parliament’s home affairs committee yesterday swept aside opposition objections to the same-sex marriages bill and used its 70 percent majority to force the use of the terms 'civil union' and 'marriage' equally.
The approved version of the bill makes the term 'civil union' the same as a 'marriage' and wherever the one appears, so too does the other. This approval is a direct rejection of the masses of submissions from religious groups objecting to giving homosexual couples the choice of using the term marriage. It is also a direct rejection of traditional leaders who wanted the constitution to be changed rather than the bill approved.
In Massachusetts, the legislature has done, in my opinion, the wrong thing. By denying the voters the chance to have the final decision on marriage rights, the pro-marriage forces have lost a clear chance at democratic legitimacy. Yes, in some respects, civil rights should not be up for a vote. But many opponents of equality in marriage do not accept the premise that civil marriage is a civil right for gays. I think they're wrong; but it's an honest disagreement. And they're not wrong that equality in civil marriage is also a social change that should have democratic input. To prevent such input by parliamentary maneuvers taints the victory. I think we would have won the vote in 2008. I'm sorry we won't now get the chance to prove it.
Nationally, of course, Massachusetts is becoming less anomalous. In California, the state legislature has approved full marriage rights for gays; and the issue is awaiting the state Supreme Court's ruling. I hope they rule for full civil marriage rights and that the first governor to sign a marriage law into effect for gay couples in Anerica will be a Republican in the most populous state in the Union.
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