A South African court has overturned a decision by the Dutch Reformed Church not to recognise same-sex unions.
The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria scrapped the church’s policy against gay marriage, stating it is discriminatory to exclude members of the church from the right to wed.
The church decided to allow individual church councils to recognise same-sex unions in 2015, but the decision was reversed a year later when the church maintained these unions did not meet “Christian guidelines”.
A key figure in the Dutch Reformed Church, Reverend Laurie Gaum, along with his father Dr Frits Gaum and eight other members, launched the High Court application to have the 2016 decision overturned and declared unconstitutional.
Gaum said the decision not to allow same-sex marriages had caused emotional and spiritual harm among church members.
The church will now be able to conduct same-sex marriages once they have obtained a licence from the Government.
Church members who are gay or lesbian and in same-sex relationships will also be able to become ministers.
LGBT rights in South Africa
Although South Africa may have been one of the first countries in the world to introduce LGBT rights into its constitution, discrimination and violence against the community is still a problem.
Sexual activity between men was prohibited until 1994, with the age of consent was set at 19 for all same-sex sexual conduct, regardless of gender. The country legalised same-sex marriage in 2006.
Despite this, a number of high-profile crimes have rocked the LGBT community in South Africa, including the brutal murder of a married lesbian couple at the end of 2017.
Joey van Niekerk and her wife Anisha were raped and killed and set alight in a brutal murder in Mooinooi, in the country’s North West province.
Last year, the South African Shembe Nazareth church was accused of beating gay men and forcing them to pay a “damages” fee for shaming the church with their sexuality.