AUSTRALIA, Victoria - Melbourne City Council will set up a "relationship register" for same-sex couples to publicly declare their partnerships, reports The Age.
Openly gay Deputy Lord Mayor Gary Singer said the plan, which would have couples make a written declaration before witnesses, would be largely symbolic, but it would help gay couples by providing proof that they were in a relationship.
"This register will provide evidence of a relationship," Cr Singer said. "It doesn't have the legal status of marriage but it does provide some evidentiary basis in court for gay and lesbian couples."
Cr Singer said the register, which had the backing of Lord Mayor John So, would provide an important symbolic avenue for gay and lesbian couples to commit publicly.
Ceremonies would more than likely be held at the Melbourne Town Hall, he said.
Melbourne City Council will approach other inner-city councils to work with it on the register, which will be studied and more than likely launched next year.
The City of Port Phillip, which covers the St Kilda, Albert Park and Port Melbourne areas, considered introducing its own relationship register in 2004, the same year Prime Minister John Howard stopped any possibility of same-sex marriage by passing an act that ruled marriage must be between a man and a woman.
The Melbourne City Council register would be the first open to gay and lesbian couples in Victoria. A similar register was established by Sydney City Council in 2002.
"Civil partnerships" along the lines proposed by the council are available for gay couples in France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, South Africa, Canada and Britain, as well as parts of the United States.
The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby group welcomed the announcement. "There is discrimination against gay couples," said spokesman Gerard Brody. "An official document, even if it's only from a council, could assist in proving that a relationship exists."
(The Age 18 November 2006 - Clay Lucas
by way of Newsclippings World-Wide GLBT- Graham Underhill)
SOUTH AFRICA, Cape Town (AP) — Gays in South Africa can be joined in matrimony under new legislation passed by parliament -- an unprecedented move on a continent where homosexuality is taboo.
Traditionalists said they were saddened, and gay activists said the bill, passed Tuesday, did not go far enough. Veterans of the governing African National Congress hailed the Civil Union Bill for extending basic freedoms to everyone under the spirit of the country's first post-apartheid constitution, adopted a decade ago by framers determined to make discrimination a thing of the past.
"When we attained our democracy, we sought to distinguish ourselves from an unjust painful past, by declaring that never again shall it be that any South African will be discriminated against on the basis of color, creed, culture and sex," Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula declared.
South Africa's constitution was the first in the world to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That provided a powerful legal tool to gay rights activists, even though South Africa remains conservative on such issues. A traditionalist lawmaker, Kenneth Meshoe, said Tuesday was the "saddest day in our 12 years of democracy" and warned that South Africa "was provoking God's anger."
Homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana and most other sub-Saharan countries. Even in South Africa, gays and lesbians are often attacked because of their sexual orientation.
One church leader in Nigeria denounced the move as "satanic," and another slammed it as recognition of "animal rights" rather than human rights, reflecting the views on a deeply conservative continent where some countries are debating constitutional amendments to ban same sex marriages.
Activists in Europe, where several countries have same-sex union provisions, hailed South Africa as a shining example and gay couples in the country started making wedding plans.
"For some people marriage means nothing, it is just a piece of paper. But we want that symbolism of having a legally binding document of our love," said Lindiwe Radebe, who wants to marry her partner Bathini Dambuza.
The bill provides for the "voluntary union of two persons, which is solemnized and registered by either a marriage or civil union." It does not specify whether they are heterosexual or homosexual partnerships.
The National Assembly passed the bill 230-41 with three abstentions. It now has to go to the National Council of Provinces, which is expected to be a formality, before being signed into law by President Thabo Mbeki.
The bill was drafted to comply with a Constitutional Court ruling last December that said existing marriage legislation was unconstitutional as it discriminated against same-sex couples. The court set a December 1 deadline for parliament to change the law.
Rather than change existing marriage laws, the government introduced the additional civil union bill in the hopes that this would be the speediest option.
Given the ANC's huge majority, the government can push through almost any legislation it wants. But it had to order to lawmakers to respect the party line and wheeled out stalwarts of the anti-apartheid movement to convince reluctant traditionalists.
"The roots of this bill lie in many years of struggle," said Defense Minister Mosuia Lekota, who reminded lawmakers that many homosexuals went into exile and prison with ANC members during white racist rule.
"This country cannot afford to be a prison of timeworn prejudices which have no basis in modern society. Let us bequeath to future generations a society which is more democratic and tolerant than the one that was handed down to us," Lekota said.
Emotions were charged during the two hour debate, with terms like "repugnant" and "cultural aberration" flying through the parliamentary chamber.
"This bill has been a headache and a heartache for many South Africans," said the small Inkatha Freedom Party.
The Roman Catholic church and many traditional leaders objected to the use of "marriage" saying this denigrated the sanctity of traditional marriages.
In an effort to ease some of these concerns, the bill allowed both religious and civil officers to refuse to marry same sex couples on moral grounds.
Gay rights groups criticized this "opt-out" clause, saying they should be treated the same as heterosexual couples.
But in general, they hailed the new measure as a "rejection of previous attempts to render lesbian and gay people as second-class citizens."
"It demonstrates powerfully the commitment of our lawmakers to ensuring that all human beings are treated with dignity," said Fikile Vilakazi of the Joint Working Group, a national network of 17 gay and lesbian organizations.
Some constitutional experts have predicted that the bill does not conform with the constitutional court ruling because of the opt out clause, meaning that homosexual couples don't have exactly the same rights as heterosexual ones.
"I think it will be challenged," said Beth Goldblatt, a senior researcher at the Center of Applied Legal Studies at the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg. "I don't see why people should present themselves before a marriage officer and be refused just because the marriage officer has different moral views."
She described the bill as the "messy product of a poorly drafted piece of legislation," which was rushed through purely to meet the December 1 deadline.
Denmark in 1989 became the first country to legislate for same-sex partnerships and several other European Union members have followed suit. In the United States, only the state of Massachusetts allows gay marriage, Vermont and Connecticut permit civil unions, and more than a dozen states grant lesser legal rights to gay couples.
Guillermo Rodriguez, a member of a French association of gays and lesbians saluted South Africa and said he hoped France would follow suit.
"It's a beautiful thing for South Africa today," he said.
(CNN 14 November 2006
by way of Newsclippings World-Wide GLBT- Graham Underhill)