Government is rewriting the rules on marriage, and in the process dethroning the heterosexual nature as the organising logic of society, in favour gender fluidity. TEASA has submitted a counter proposal.
Comments on the Draft Marriage Bill
1. TEASA, a Christian organisation believes that marriage is regarded as a sacred and
foundational institution established by God. It is considered a covenant between a man and a
woman, symbolizing the unity and companionship intended by God. Marriage is meant to
reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church, highlighting love, sacrifice, and
commitment. From this viewpoint, government protection of marriage is seen as important
because it upholds the societal and moral framework that aligns with the religious values of
fidelity, commitment, and family. Government recognition and protection of marriage provide
legal safeguards for spouses and children, ensuring rights, responsibilities, and inheritance are
properly established. This helps maintain the stability of families, which are seen as the
building blocks of society and essential for nurturing strong communities and passing down
values to future generations.
2. It is because of the sacrosanctity of marriage that we make the following submission on the
draft marriage Bill.
3. The Purpose of the Bill
3.1. The drafters of the Bill claim that the Bill was inspired by the Constitutional Court ruling on
Muslim marriages and was meant to remedy the defects identified by the court. It is has been
submitted by members of the Muslim community that the Bill actually fails in addressing key
issues that were raised by the court. The issue of equality for Muslim women is a red herring
for the true purpose of the Bill.
3.2. The Bill claims that the purpose is to harmonise all marriage regimes for a more equal society.
It is clear that this is not the case as the Bill appears to completely erase the long held Christian
definition of marriage, replace it with a new ultra-liberal all-inclusive union and completely
removing the Christian ideology. It does not create harmony or equality, it simply replaces one
ideology that is tried and tested throughout millennia, for a new philosophy whose
consequences on society are yet to be fully realised.
3.3. TEASA’s submission contends that the harmonization of legislation in a manner that is both
socially and destructively counterproductive was unnecessary. In considering what solutions
the legislature should take to address the myriad of issues concerning marriage regimes,
TEASA is of the opinion that a parallel legislative regime would have been the more
appropriate approach for a society as diverse of ours. In a parallel system, neither marriage
act holds superiority over the other, and all are equally safeguarded by the law. It is essential
to recognize that perceiving discrimination does not necessarily equate to actual
discrimination. Distinct laws themselves do not constitute discrimination, but applying them
inconsistently with the constitution would be discriminatory. Embracing parallel legislation
seems to align better with the diverse range of South African belief systems and marriage
4. The Bill Discriminates Against Heterosexual Males and Females
4.1. The Bill purports to be working towards fulfilling the Constitutional mandates of promoting a
more equal society. Shockingly, the Bill does the complete opposite through the insistence of
the use of gender-neutral terms and redefining marriage.
There is nothing neutral about the use of gender-neutral terms. The Bill intends to primarily
do away with the use of husband/wife in monogamous marriages, effectively erasing long
held traditional definitions that have served as anchors in our societies. The majority of
citizens have a right to see themselves reflected in legislation that governs a key area such as
marriage. In the same breadth that members of minority groups do not see themselves
represented in terms such as husband and wife, the majority of citizens do not see themselves
represented in gender-neutral terms. Whilst it is perfectly reasonable, and even
commendable for government to take steps towards the inclusion of minorities, such inclusion
must not result in the exclusion/erasure of key terminology that is sacred to the majority.
Monogamous heterosexual marriage is the vehicle through which societies have advanced
over the years. The language that is used to define these unions matters, this is why liberal
activists are working so hard to change the language. How we define ourselves as a society
speaks to our core values. Our language should reflect our values, words such as husband,
wife, marriage matter and must be reflected in the legislation.
4.4. TEASA proposes that the most logical, just and Constitutionally sound way to remedy these
defects is to simply abandon the current efforts in this Bill, leave the existing pieces of
legislations that currently govern marriage and draft a new law that is inclusive and
encompasses the needs of the minority.
5. A Potential Assault on Freedom of Belief
5.1. The Bill is silent on whether or not marriage officers will be penalised should they refuse to
solemnise a marriage on grounds of their sincerely held beliefs. The right to freedom of
religion and to practice one’s religion is a sacred right held in the constitution. Exercising this
right extends to the fulfilment of personal and professional duties. The silence in the Bill is of
great concern as it places marriage officers at risk of being criminalised.
5.2. TEASA proposes that the following protections on the freedom of religion be clearly
5.2.1. Provision that explicitly safeguards the religious liberties of Religious Marriage Officers as
well as Civil Marriage Officers to not be compelled to partake in any activities concerning
solemnisation of a marriage.
5.2.2. Revisions to certain clauses to avert a potential issue and eliminate confusion present in
the current draft of the Bill, which could inadvertently lead to the criminalization of
religious leaders who conduct only the religious ceremony (without involvement in the
legal aspect of marriage).
5.3. Failure to make these changes and provide these safeguards is tantamount to an assault on
religious freedoms and is a violation of the Constitution.
6. In conclusion, we pray that the legislature will take into full consideration the opinions of the
society and refuse participate in efforts that seek to oppress religious beliefs in the name of
inclusion. Protection under the law is to be enjoyed by all, the minority as well as the majority