Under South African law, marriages may be performed only for heterosexual couples; however civil unions, which create the same legal rights as a marriage, may be performed for either heterosexual or same-sex couples. South Africa also has a statute which allows transgender individuals to register their gender transition with the government if they have undergone medical or surgical treatment to alter their sexual characteristics. Registration leads to a change in the gender listed on birth certificates and in the population register. In KOS v. Minister of Home Affairs, (S.A. High Ct., Sept. 6, 2017), a South African trial court was faced with the question of how to treat couples who had entered a heterosexual marriage (not a civil union), where subsequently the husband underwent gender transitioning and registered the change in gender identity with the government.The government argued that in such cases, a gender change should not be able to be registered since it would result in a same-sex marriage, which the law does not recognize. In one of the cases, the government had instead cancelled the couple’s marriage record and insisted that they enter a civil union. The court however, disagreed concluding that the couples must be allowed to register the gender reassignment and remain married. Refusing to do this, the court said, violates the rights under the South African Constitution to administrative justice and to equality and human dignity. GroundUp reports on the decision.
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