PRESS RELEASE

 

Date:                         10 April 2014

Embargo:                  None

Issued by:                 EC LGBTI Organisation

Contact person:        Zama Mzimela (EC LGBTI Organisation Chairperson)

Contact number:      083 354 8091

 

 

The homophobic Port Elizabeth branch of Home Affairs has once again flouted the constitutional rights of same-sex couples. This branch is now notorious for refusing to marry gay and lesbian couples. There is a pattern. The branch refuses to conduct a civil union;  then, when the story hits the media, there is a profuse apology from management and an undertaking to conduct the ceremony. Then, a year later… the same thing happens again.

 

The ECLGBTI (Eastern Cape Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex) Organisation has been informed by Lance Ledingham that he was turned away from the PE office of Home Affairs two weeks ago when seeking to set a date for a civil union. He was apparently told by an abrupt official that same-sex marriages are not offered at that branch, nor are they offered at other branches. 

A Home Affairs marriage officer may, in writing, 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, whereupon that marriage officer can not be compelled to do so. It is, however, the Department’s responsibility to ensure that a marriage officer is available at the branch who is willing to conduct same-sex unions, or alternatively, arrange for a marriage office from another branch to travel to that branch to conduct the ceremony.

 

The EC LGBTI Organisation rejects this provision in the Civil Union Act. If an individual has a moral objection to same-sex marriages, such person should not be employed by the state as a marriage officer.  Our constitution is clear: no-one may be unfairly discriminated against on grounds of sexual orientation. Government officials should not be able to pick and choose what human rights they are prepared to accept.  Imagine if a home affairs official refused, because of his or her own prejudices, to marry an inter-racial couple – there would be a national outcry. There needs to be a change to the law, as well as a change in attitude by the Department of Home Affairs at every level.

 

The ECLGBTI does not have words to express our outrage. Donovan Wynne and Michael Cronje were turned away from the same office in August 2011.  And Kevin de Lange and Cobus Steyn, in June 2013.

 

After Kevin de Lange alerted ECLBTI Org of his experience in June last year, we were in telephonic contact with the Regional Manager for the Department of Home Affairs, Mr Sibongiseni Biyase, who assured us of three things: (1) Kevin and his partner would be contacted by the Department, an apology offered,  and a ceremony conducted at their convenience, (2) the management responsible for the matter would be disciplined and (3) mechanisms would be put in place to ensure that this would not happen again.

 

Nine months later it has happened again.

 

Clearly there is a problem in Port Elizabeth. We can’t believe that managers at that office are not aware of the provisions of the Civil Union Act, given that the matter has been in the media twice before. The only conclusion that we can draw is that their flagrant disregard for the law is sanctioned from on high.

 

The ECLGBTI Organisation will be writing to the Minister for Home Affairs to demand that the management at the Port Elizabeth branch be suspended. We will demand that competent, progressive individuals employed who will provide services to ALL South Africans, without prejudice.

 

We urge everyone, the LGBTI community and straight people, to stand together against homophobia in all its forms.

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WHY NOT?

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