DHA refuses to register heterosexual civil union marriages

At identified Department of Home Affairs branches, Home Affairs officials are refusing to register marriages between heterosexual couples married in terms of the Civil Union Act.

These officials are instructing heterosexual couples that:
(a) they were incorrectly married under the Civil Union Act,
(b) the Civil Union Act does not afford the same legal consequences to the married couple as the Marriage Act does, and
(c) heterosexual couples should instruct the Civil Union marriage officer to reverse or cancel their Civil Union marriage and be re-married under the Marriage Act.

The Facts

(a) The Civil Union Act is not a ‘gay marriage act’ and the Marriage Act is not a ‘straight marriage act’. That distinction is not supported in law. Both same sex and heterosexual couples are today married under both Civil Union and Marriage Acts.
(b) Both the Civil Union Act and the Marriage Act have the same legal consequences.
(c) A solemnised marriage may not be reversed or cancelled by the officiating marriage officer. A Civil Union marriage officer may not conduct a marriage in terms of the Marriage Act.

The refusal by DHA officials to register Civil Union marriages between heterosexual couples amounts to ignorance of the law on the part of those officials.

This unlawful refusal by DHA officials has serious delictual consequences for the Department of Home Affairs. It also inflicts unfair reputational damage against the Civil Union marriage officer who conducts these marriages, as well as against the designated organisation under whom the marriage officer is appointed, by the Department of Home Affairs.

This Alliance will be approaching the Director-General and Minister of the Department of Home Affairs for urgent intervention and relief.

2 September 2019