JOHANNESBURG — A South African couple who have been together for 18 years and are getting “fierce” gay marriage licenses will have their nuptials officiated by a judge who says it is “the best way to mark the occasion.”
South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled in the couple’s favor Tuesday after a petition by a man seeking to marry his partner of 22 years was rejected by the country’s highest court.
In the opinion, Judge Adero Sisulu wrote that “the proposed marriage is in line with the laws of the State of South Africa.”
“The proposed marriage should not be a matter of private conscience but must be the lawful act of the South African Government, in particular the Constitutional Court,” he said.
“This is a very important issue in our country, one that the majority of South Africans have never heard of,” said lawyer Michael Njaka, who filed the petition for the couple, whom he calls “fearsome,” and their two young children.
Njaka said the ruling would affect the “fearful lives” of the couple.
The couples’ lawyer, Peter Nwachitwa, said he was “extremely happy” with the ruling.
He called the court’s decision “very positive and positive for gay couples in South Africa.”
I am confident that the Constitutional Council will continue to uphold the laws and respect the wishes of all couples in our society,” he told reporters.
While there is no date set for the ceremony, the couple is hoping it will take place at the end of the year.
Gay rights activists have long been calling for the state to recognize gay marriages in South African courts, and in November, the country legalized gay marriage for the first time.
South African officials have previously said that they do not have plans to make same-sex marriages a law in the country.
For their part, the couples hope the ruling will encourage other gay couples to seek civil unions, and that the law will also lead to other same-gender couples obtaining civil unions in other countries.