"When we attained our democracy, we sought to distinguish ourselves from an unjust painful past, by declaring that never again shall it be that any South African will be discriminated against on the basis of color, creed culture and sex," Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the National Assembly. ... The bill provides for the "voluntary union of two persons, which is solemnized and registered by either a marriage or civil union." It does not specify whether they are heterosexual or homosexual partnerships.
But it also says marriage officers need not perform a ceremony between same-sex couples if doing so would conflict with his or her "conscience, religion and belief." ... The Roman Catholic church and many traditional leaders objected to the use of "marriage" saying this denigrated the sanctity of traditional marriages.
In an effort to ease some of these concerns, the drafters of the bill allowed both religious and civil officers to refuse to marry same-sex couples.
Gay rights groups criticized this "opt-out" clause, saying they should be treated the same as heterosexual couples.