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Last Updated:  Monday, 17 March, 2003, 11:57 GMT
Equal benefits for SA gays
Gay couple
South Africa's gays are guaranteed equal rights

South Africa's highest court has ruled that gay couples should receive the same financial benefits as heterosexuals.

The case was brought by lesbian judge Kathy Satchwell, who wanted her partner to get the same benefits as the married partners of other judges.

The South African constitution outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Constitutional Court last year ruled that gay couples in "permanent same-sex" relationships could adopt children.

That case was brought by a different lesbian judge, Anna-Marie de Vos.

This made South Africa the first African country to let same-sex couples legally adopt children, reported the French news agency, AFP.


Monday's Constitutional Court ruling upheld the verdict of the High Court.

It covers benefits such as pensions and the allowance paid to spouses when civil servants travel abroad.

Willie Knoetze of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Project said the organization was delighted with the ruling.

"We are very pleased with the court's decision because it is in line with our objectives of a free and fair South Africa," he said.


In 1999, the Constitutional Court also ruled that foreign partners of South African homosexuals and lesbians should enjoy the same protection as heterosexual couples.

As a result foreign gays and lesbians involved in long-term relationships with South Africans are now able to apply for permanent residence.

The BBC's Carolyn Dempster in Johannesburg says that although South Africa's constitution is one of the most progressive in the world, the country has yet to amend its marriage law, which still does not recognise same-sex marriages.

Last year a Pretoria High Court judge rejected an application to recognise a homosexual "marriage" as legal.

He said it was a matter for the executive to change the law and not the courts to decide.

Are South African gays treated fairly?
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