Same Sex Marriages and the Law in South Africa

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Same sex marriages

Same sex marriages


Same sex marriages also known as gay marriage or Civil Unions became legal in South Africa on 30 November 2006 when the Civil Union Bill was enacted after having been passed by the South African Parliament earlier that month. South Africa granted unregistered cohabitation in 1999.



What does the Civil Union Act provide to lesbian, gay and transgender couples?


Same sex marriages

Same sex marriages

  • A couple has the choice to either have their relationship legally registered as a marriage or a civil partnership
    • A civil partnership is a union between same sex couples. This requires the couple to formally apply through the courts to register their union in a formal contractual way.
    • Or the couple can enter into a marriage
    • A couple will get a certificate indicating that they have entered either into a marriage or a civil partnership
    • Described as a registration certificate, the certificate indicates registration under this Act and is not a marriage certificate under the Marriage Act. The certificate will serve as a legal proof that the two partners are married or civil partnered under this Act



All the legal and material benefits and responsibilities that flow from marriages concluded under the Marriage Act of 1961 will apply to marriages or civil partnerships concluded under the Civil Union Act (hereafter referred to as “the Act”).

Will the marriage or civil partnership under this Act be recognized outside of South Africa?


Same sex marriages outside of South Africa

  • The recognition of marriage and civil partnership under this Act will only be recognized outside of South Africa in countries that have a civil union or same sex marriage with similar provisions as in South Africa
  • Each country would have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis
  • The marriages and civil partnerships under this Act will not be recognized in countries where homosexuality is still penalized by law




As of 1 March 2017 , same-sex marriage is legally recognized (nationwide or in some parts) in the following countries: Argentina, BelgiumBrazilCanadaColombia, Denmark , Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico , the Netherlands , New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, …


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Matrimonial Property Act 88 of 1984

Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998

Civil Union Act 17 of 2006


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