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South Africa court rules for gay rights
By CLARE NULLIS, Associated Press Writer
Thu Nov 23, 1:13 PM ET
South Africa's highest court ruled Thursday that gay partners must have the same inheritance rights as married couples, a decision in line with its landmark 2005 judgment that same sex marriages should be legalized.
The 10-member Constitutional Court ruled unanimously that existing succession laws were illegal because they excluded gay partners from provisions giving spouses automatic inheritance rights if a partner dies without leaving a will. The order was to have immediate effect.
It said the law should be changed to insert after every mention of the word "spouse," the phrase "or partner in a permanent same-sex life partnership in which the partners have undertaken reciprocal duties of support."
The current regulation "amounts to discrimination on the listed ground of sexual orientation," it said.
The ruling was a further victory for gay rights activists who are anticipating being able to marry their partners from Dec. 1, making South Africa the first nation on a deeply conservative continent to legalize same sex marriages.
Still, homosexuality remains largely taboo in South Africa, with many people saying it violates African cultural norms. The legislation met with heated opposition from many religious bodies and traditional leaders and only passed through the National Assembly because the ruling African National Congress ordered reluctant lawmakers to vote in favor.
South Africa's higher legislative chamber is expected to vote Monday on the Civil Union Bill, which was approved last week by the main parliamentary chamber, the National Assembly. President Thabo Mbeki must sign the law before Dec. 1 to meet the court's deadline. Otherwise, gay marriages will enter into effect by default.
South Africa recognized the rights of gay people in the constitution adopted after apartheid ended in 1994 — the first in the world to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The case that led to Thursday's ruling was brought before the court by Mark Gory, whose long term partner, Henry Harrison Brooks, died without leaving a will.
Brooks' parents appointed another man as the executor of the will and claimed his estate. Gory disputed this and won an initial ruling the Pretoria high court.
The Constitutional Court ruled that Gory was Brooks' sole heir and that they had been living in a permanent relationship.
It canceled the sale of Gory and Brooks' joint Johannesburg home, which had been registered in Brooks' name, and ordered the return of Brooks' personal property to Gory.
Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2006, 17:00 GMT
SA court boosts gay inheritance
South Africa's highest court has ruled that gay people can inherit the property of their partners who die without a will.
The Constitutional Court said existing succession laws discriminated against same-sex couples.
The court said that whenever the word "spouse" was mentioned in the laws, the words "or partner in a same-sex life partnership" should be added.
South Africa's parliament last week legalised gay weddings.
The law is expected to come into effect on 1 December, making South Africa the first country in Africa to legalise same-sex unions.
Gay rights groups have welcomed the ruling on property rights.
The parliamentary vote on gay weddings followed a Constitutional Court ruling last year that same-sex couples should be allowed to get married.
The change was strongly opposed by some religious groups and traditional leaders.
South Africa has one of the world's most liberal constitutions - it was the first to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.