There has been so much debate on the legitimacy of the proposed Civil Union bill, which have set me thinking (which, as a self confessed idiot could be dangerous) and so this post is very much a mind dump. But first a bit of quick background.
Firstly, it has been criticised by some in the Gay and Lesbian community, because it is a separate act; and is different from the current marriage act. Thus they argue; it is different and discriminatory. The government argues that it needs to be; because the marriage act is primarily based around religious and traditional ceremonies; and since the new bill is independent of religion; it requires different treatment.
On the other hand, there is the criticisms from the religious, and virtually every homophobic person, on how gay marriage is against nature, and against every religious belief; and thus immoral. In fact, the government was really pushed to write this bill; because the Constitutional Court ruled that the current Marriage Act is unconstitutional; so it is obliged to change the law. And like the death penalty - referendums on the matter will not help. To change the legal position on either; there needs to be a change in the constitution; and even a simple 2/3 majority is not sufficient to do that!
So either way; like it or not, gay marriage will be legalised; and there is effectively nothing that the opposition can do. This off course raises a few very important issues and problems. First and foremost - in a constitution that separates the church and the state distinctly; is there a need for a marriage act, other than to recognise marriage can be performed under religious and traditional ceremonies? In that scenario; other than recognised state machinery to register and dissolve marriages; why is there a need to have separate acts governing them?
Secondly, and more interestingly in my opinion: why should marriage be between two persons (as dictated by the last Constitutional Court judgment on the issue)? Why can a marriage not be between more than two persons? And it is not a new thing in South African culture anyway - quite a few cultural groups, like the Zulus, recognise polygamy. And so do some religions, including Islam. So, if it is religiously and culturally ok to have more then two persons in a marriage; why should a civil marriage be any different? Why should it not be possible to have marriages involving multiple persons, of different genders? Do we really have any right to regulate people's love and sex lives - as long as every one in the relationship is a consenting adult?
Gay marriage controversy ... wait till the polygamy controversy starts :P