While the Department of Home Affairs expects a Valentine’s Day rush for same-sex weddings it still hasn’t put in place procedures to license external marriage officer.

According to a report in the Rapport newspaper, a spokesperson for the Department, Mantshele Tau, has said that 84 same-sex couples have married under the Civil Union Act to-date at Home Affairs offices around the country. The law legalising gay marriage came into effect on December 2 last year.

Tau goes on to say that he is expecting an increase in same-sex couples getting married on Valentine’s Day on 14 February.

While Marriage Officers at the Department of Home Affairs have been busy, it appears that external marriages officers have had little luck in getting licensed by the Department to be able to officiate under the new Act.

Independent marriages officers, such as those representing churches, need to apply, and take an exam, to be able to marry under the Civil Union Act. However, some have complained about delays in the granting of the license and in being supplied with a study ‘manual’ required to write the exam.

Moira de Swardt, who is an independent registered marriage officer under the Marriage Act through the auspices of the Gay Christian Community Church, – was told by Home Affairs that “the manual is not yet written and it’ll take another four weeks before it’s ready.”

When asked if she was irritated by the bureaucratic delay in being allowed to marry gay couples, she replied, “I know the Department of Home Affairs, so I’m not really surprised.”

The result is that some Home Affairs offices have a backlog in registering same-sex unions; it’s been reported that the earliest date available in Cape Town is towards the end of March.

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