The Constitutional Court in South Africa finally reached a decision at the beginning of this month to legalise homosexual marriage. Homosexuals will be able to legally marry in December 2006, and the Marriage Act will be changed accordingly. My own opinion is that this is a good thing. My wife and I know a gay couple who love each other very much, who live together, and who have been committed to each other for many years. I could never understand why they could not enjoy the same rights as my wife and I do, such as signing an marriage contract, or sharing insurance policies, bank cards and home loans. In our country’s past, couples of different race groups were not allowed to marry. I see this decision as a step closer to protecting the rights of everyone who lives in this country.
I’ve also read that those opposing the legalisation of homosexual marriage want the debate to be decided by a referendum. "Let everyone decide", they say, "we live in a democracy, after all". I believe that if a referendum took place, the majority of the population would vote against homosexual union. However, I think that democracy isn't about letting the majority decide on every issue; democracy is primarily about protecting the rights of those who live in the land, especially of those who belong to minority groups. When the rights of minority groups are in question, the decisions have to be made - not by the majority of people - but by the leaders (in this case the Constitutional Court). If the majority decided on every issue, I think that over time the minority would become increasingly suppressed. I could be wrong here, but I think a healthy democracy aims to strike a balance between the amount of decision-making power held by the majority, and the rights and freedoms of minority groups and individuals.
I for one am glad that we live in a secular country where we can enjoy certain freedoms - of expression, religion (or non-religion), association and speech. Christians should be thankful that they live in a secular society, as well, as they are protected, and thus can worship in church without being shot or tortured. However, in order to enjoy this freedom, majority groups - let it be racial groups, language groups or religious groups - have to sometimes make certain sacrifices so that the minority can also enjoy these freedoms as well. The sacrifice that Christians have made in this case is that they can’t expect the rest of society – especially those that don’t follow their religion – to adhere to Christian rules and norms. Human diversity, and recognition and protection of that diversity, is the key to a healthy society. I believe this month’s decision recognises just that.