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South Africa
becomes first country on continent to legalize same-sex
marriage

South Africa
becomes first country on continent to legalize same-sex
marriage

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With the deputy president's signature on a new law, South Africa on Thursday became the first country on the African continent to legalize same-sex marriages.

With the deputy president's signature on a new law, South Africa on Thursday became the first country on the African continent to legalize same-sex marriages. The Civil Union Act entered into force on the eve of a December 1 deadline set by the constitutional court for the government to change its marriage legislation to ensure full equality for gays and lesbians. The legislation made it through parliament despite opposition from many church groups and traditional leaders, who said it violated African culture. Gay rights groups have welcomed the law, although they criticized provisions allowing marriage officers to turn away gay couples if their consciences prevent them from marrying them. Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka signed the legislation into law in her capacity as acting president because President Thabo Mbeki is in Nigeria. South Africa recognized the rights of gay people in the constitution adopted after apartheid ended in 1994, at a time when leaders were determined to bury all kinds of legal discrimination. The constitution, the first in the world to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, provided a powerful legal tool for gay rights activists even though South Africa remains conservative on such issues. (AP)

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