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Civil Unions

Same-sex marriages became legal in South Africa on 30 November 2006 when the Civil Union Bill was enacted after having been passed by the South African Parliament earlier that month. South Africa became the fifth country, and the first in Africa, to legalize same-sex marriage.

Three laws currently provide for the status of marriage in South Africa. These are the Marriage Act (Act 25 of 1961), the Customary Marriages Act (Act 120 of 1998), which provides for the civil registration of marriages solemnised according to the traditions of indigenous tribes, and the Civil Union Act (Act 17 of 2006). South Africans may choose in terms of which of these laws they wish to be married, but may be married in terms of only one at a given time.

However same-sex marriages are only allowed in terms of the Civil Union Act. Couples marrying in terms of the Civil Union Act may choose whether their union is called a civil partnership or a marriage partnership.

  • A couple will get a certificate that indicates that they have either entered into a marriage or a civil partnership, depending on their choice. Described as a registration certificate, the certificate indicates registration under this Act and is not a marriage certificate under the Marriage Act. The certificate will serve as legal proof that the two partners are married or civil partnered under this Act.

  • All the legal and material benefits and responsibilities that flow from marriages concluded under the Marriage Act of 1961 will also apply to marriages or civil partnerships concluded under the Civil Union Act
This includes a wide range of legal rights and responsibilities such as;
  • A mutual duty of support while the marriage lasts;
  • The right to claim maintenance and a share of the spouse’s property on divorce; and
  • The right to inherit on the death of a spouse.
Since it is a model that runs parallel to marriage, the legal consequences following the conclusion of a civil union will be the same as that of marriage, but in view of the fact that the union is not a marriage, a civil union will be regulated in terms of the proposed Registered Partnerships legislation and it will be established by a civil registration procedure and terminated by agreement or by a court procedure.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this web site does not constitute legal advice. Even though every endeavour has been made as to the accuracy of the information, we cannot be held responsible for any errors and/or omissions. Copyright © JLS ATTORNEYS 2009 All rights reserved.

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