[JURIST] South Africa's cabinet on Thursday sent a civil unions bill to the parliament that would place same-sex partnerships on equal footing with traditional marriages. The parliament is expected to approve the bill, which was mandated by a December 2005 ruling [judgment,PDF; summary] of the South African Constitutional Court [official website] holding that the 1961 Marriage Act [1997 extension text, PDF] prohibition against same-sex marriages violates the South African Constitution [text]. The Constitutional Court set a December 1 deadline [JURIST report] for the laws to be changed. Last week, a spokesperson for the South African Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs [official website] announced opposition to a constitutional amendment [JURIST report] authorizing same-sex marriages, but indicated that parliament is ready to approve the bill.
Canada, Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands are the only nations that currently recognize full same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive]. The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) [official website] announced dismay at the cabinet's approval of the bill, which would make South Africa the first African country to endorse same-sex partnerships, and has called for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Reuters has more. The Advocate has additional coverage.