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Court opts not to clarify DRC ruling

Publish date: 13 May 2019
Issue Number: 823
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa

The Alliance Defending the Autonomy of Churches in SA (Adacsa) had its application for clarity on the 2016 same-sex relationships decision by the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) rejected on Friday, notes a News24 report. Adacsa asked the court to clarify whether its judgment in Gaum vs General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church, which declared the decision of the church on same-sex relationships to be unlawful and invalid, was made only on procedural grounds or also on constitutional grounds. In that judgment, the court found the Dutch Reformed Church's policy against solemnising same-sex marriages, diminished the integrity of gay congregants. Adacsa brought the latest application in March and, on Friday the court opted not to clarify, saying the organisation had no legal standing to bring such an application.

Full News24 report

The court held there was nothing to clarify in its original judgment, according to a Beeld report. Adacsa cited an opinion piece penned by constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos on Mamba Online as an example of the ‘confusion’ that was created with De Vos questioning whether the judgment was applicable to all religious groups. Laurie Gaum opposed Adacsa’s application, saying it was clear in the judgment that the Dutch Reformed Church lost on procedural as well as constitutional grounds. Gaum says Adacsa tried to ‘water down’ the impact of the judgment. However, De Vos reportedly still believes there is uncertainty. ‘The question that should be asked is whether the right to equality trumps the right to freedom of religion and whether that was the core of the judgment … The matter would have to be settled by a ruling of the Constitutional Court.’ Adacsa says it is considering an application for leave to appeal against the judge’s ruling that it has no standing in the case.

Full Beeld report (subscription needed)

De Vos’ opinion piece on Mamba Online