South Africa’s cabinet has given the green light for a bill allowing gay marriage, which would make it the first country in Africa to accord homosexual couples the same rights as their straight counterparts.
Government spokesman Themba Maseko said the cabinet had approved the bill — which must still be adopted by parliament — after the country’s highest country ruled it was unconstitutional to deny gay people the right to marry.
“Basically (the bill) will legalize same sex marriage in compliance with the constitutional court ruling,” said Maseko, who could not say when parliament would discuss the bill.
The bill — which has drawn opposition from religious groups who want a referendum on the issue — is still subject to public comment.
On course to join European countries
The cabinet decision puts South Africa on course to join a handful of mostly European countries that allow same-sex marriage, making it the first to do so in Africa, where homosexuality remains taboo and opponents decry gay unions as "un-African."
South Africa’s high court said in December same-sex unions must be allowed under the country’s constitution — widely considered one of the most liberal in the world.
It said parliament had one year to change the current definition of marriage, which says the union is between a husband and wife, and that if it failed to act, the law would be automatically changed to include same-sex unions.
The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada already sanction gay marriages. Many African countries outlaw homosexuality and turn a blind eye to the persecution of gays and lesbians.
Some church groups in South Africa, which is predominantly Christian, have opposed same-sex unions on the grounds it flouts public opinion.