Gay marriage in South Africa - yes, we welcome you!

"I now pronounce you wife and wife. You may now kiss the bride, make decisions on each other's behalf, inherit if a partner dies and legally adopt."

Gay Marriage

Damn straight! So to speak.

On the 1st December 2006 South Africa joined an elite group. Our government made a just, democratic and impressive decision. We became one of five countries worldwide to legalize same-sex marriage.

This is an extract from Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota’s appeal to parliament before the vote took place:

"We are bound to fulfill the promises of democracy which we made to the people of our country," he said. "Are we going to suppress this so-called minority, or are we going to let these people enjoy the privilege of choosing who will be their life partners?

"I take this opportunity to remind the House that in the long and arduous struggle for democracy very many men and women of homosexual or lesbian orientation joined the ranks of the liberation and democratic forces.

"How then can we live with the reality that we should enjoy rights that together we fought for side by side, and deny them that?

"Today, as we reap the fruits of democracy, it is only right that they must be afforded similar space in the sunshine of our democracy … This country cannot afford to continue to be a prisoner of the backward, timeworn prejudices that have no basis."

This address gives me warm fuzzies. It also gives me hope. A lot of bad decisions have been made in our years of democracy. A lot of scandal has gone down. With the introduction of BEE certification, it looked as if equality was going to be a forced effort, like a tipping of the scales to the opposite extreme rather than to the middle. And the bill was not passed without opposition. The African Christian Democratic Party and the Freedom Front Plus both vehemently opposed the bill:

"Traditional marriages in which one man and one woman create a lasting community pass on time-honoured family values to secure the future and therefore are worthy of protection." – ACDP justice critic Steve Swart.

A South African gay rights group promptly labeled this as "sexual apartheid" and people in power were forced to see the parallels.

In the Constitutional Court's December 2005 ruling, Judge Albie Sachs highlighted this parallel: He said that slavery had lasted for a century and a half in South Africa, colonialism for twice as long, the prohibition of interracial marriages for even longer, and overt male domination for millennia.

All were based on apparently self-evident biological and social facts; all were sanctioned by religion and imposed by law. - Judge Albie Sachs

Now, along with Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium, South Africa has become a haven for weddings with two little sugar brides or grooms on top of the wedding cake. More than 3,000 same-sex couples have been married in South Africa so far. It is a beautiful thing when a democratic government actually acts like one.

Tracy is a South African social documentary photographer who has won numerous awards, been featured in magazines and had her work exhibited internationally.