South Africa may or may not be ahead of us in human rights

South Africa has joined Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, and the state of Massachusetts in allowing same-sex marriages. This makes it one of the most liberal nations in the world in terms of Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transsexual (LGBT) rights. The process was completed Nov. 30, when Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka signed a bill into law allowing same-sex marriage, a year after the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was unconstitutional. After apartheid ended, South Africa adopted an exceptionally anti-discrimination constitution aimed at guaranteeing equality and basic freedoms for all. It was the first constitution to specifically ban discrimination based on sexual preference. According to the Constitutional Court’s Dec. 1, 2005 ruling, a definition of marriage that excludes same-sex couples represents “a harsh if oblique statement by the law that same-sex couples are outsiders, and that their need for affirmation and protection of their intimate relations as human beings is somehow less than that of heterosexual couples.” The new policy is being heralded by LGBT rights advocates worldwide as an example to follow. However, many South Africans object to the decision. Church groups around the country have called for a referendum, believing that the majority of South Africans oppose any change to the traditional definition of marriage. Ames High students were divided on the issue, as well. “What [South Africa] has done is absolutely alright, and we should follow suit,” senior Meredith Parsons said. Sophomore Sarek Hartmann agreed. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Hartmann said, “I think it should probably happen in the U.S., too.” Not all students agreed with Parsons’ and Hartmans’ views, however. “I’m not usually in agreement with same-sex marriage,” junior Albert Cho said. “If same-sex couples marry, they can’t reproduce, which will lead to extinction.” Senior Sarah Jackson was also strongly opposed to the new legalization. “I believe that same-sex marriage is a mutilation of human nature. Though I don’t have a problem with the people going about having same-sex marriage, I think the act itself is wrong and it makes me sad that it’s happening,” Jackson said. “But I guess people go about doing whatever they want these days; I can only hope that the trend doesn’t become so great that the value of marrying someone of the opposite gender is lost. I can only hope that people are smart, in whatever decisions they can make.” Senior Wern Ong took a more moderate view. “As a Christian, I see homosexuality as a sin,” Ong said. “However, I understand that not everyone believes in the same thing as me. With those two things in my mind I can’t figure out what my stance is.”