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South Africa high court supports same-sex inheritance rights

[JURIST] The South African Constitutional Court [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Thursday that same-sex partners in a permanent relationship have the same inheritance rights as married heterosexual couples [media summary], and that a surviving partner could therefore take by intestacy as a deceased partner's heir. It declared that existing South African succession law [text] was unconstitutional and should be amended to add after any reference to "spouse" the words "or partner in a permanent same-sex life partnership in which the partners have undertaken reciprocal duties of support."

The judgment follows the same court's October 2005 ruling [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] that held existing South African marriage law unconstitutional because it did extend to same-sex relationships. The court at that time gave the South African parliament until December 1, 2006, to amend the law to legalize same-sex marriages. Last week the South African National Assembly passed [JURIST report] a vaguely-worded Civil Union Bill to do that. South Africa's upper house is expected to vote on the bill Monday, sending it on passage to President Thabo Mbeki. If parliament fails to act, gay marriages in South Africa will become legal by default. AP has more.

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