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December 02, 2004

Family lawyers call for pre-nuptial deals for British couples

Rich husbands and wives in Britain who wish to protect their fortunes from the lottery of the divorce courts could soon be able to take advantage of US-style pre-nuptial agreements, says a report in The Independent. A long-awaited report published by an influential group of family lawyers calls on the government to make 'pre-nup' contracts binding on divorce settlements. The change in the law would put British couples on the same footing as American couples who are able to state exactly what happens to their assets after separation. Demand for pre-nuptial agreements in this country has soared after a number of a high-profile divorces.

Many changes before gays may wed

Gay couples will not be able to have their marriages legally recognised as yet, as a great deal of legislative amendments have to be put in place before it can happen, according to Jan Stemmet, the co-chairperson of the Law Society of SA. The Supreme Court of Appeal has ruled that the intended marriage between Marie Fourie and Cecilia Bonthuys is capable of lawful recognition as a legally valid marriage, provided the formalities in the Marriage Act are complied with. SABC News reports that the Acts that will have to be amended are the Marriage Act and related Matrimonial Property Act, the Administration of Estates Act and the Insolvency Act as a result of the court ruling. Stemmet suggested that it may take six months to a year for legislation to be passed.
Full report by SABC News

There has been strong reaction to the court ruling approving same-s ex marriages. The Reverend Molefi Tsele, general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, expressed disappointment at the ruling but said the council would have to live with the decision as it was based on the constitution, say reports in The Star and on the News24 site. The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference said the ruling contradicted the law of God. Its president, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, said: 'It shows that majority opinions are not always the correct ones. It also shows man-made laws can be contradictory to God's.'

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Courts can't refuse testimony of mentally disabled

Five Appeal Court judges have ruled that no court may refuse to hear a mentally disabled person's testimony, reports Beeld. This landmark ruling was a unanimous decision by a full Bench of appeal judges who ruled that the case of a man must be reheard after he was acquitted of raping a mentally disabled teen because of a lack of evidence. During the trial of Sidney Katoo in the Port Elizabeth High Court, the judge refused the State's request to allow the mentally disabled 16-year-old rape victim to testify. The judge at the time used a stipulation in the Criminal Procedure Act that states that mentally disabled witnesses may not testify. But the Appeal Court judges ruled that mental disability alone could not be used to stop people from testifying. The only time a witness could be rejected on these grounds was if the person's condition was of such a nature that he or she was unable to understand the court proceedings or the importance of an oath. The judges also gave the State permission to again charge Katoo with rape, despite an earlier acquittal.
Full report by Beeld on News24 site

 

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December 01, 2004

Landmark ruling in favour of 'gay marriage'

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein has ruled in favour of Marié Fourie and Cecelia Bonthuys, a Pretoria lesbian couple who want to have a legally recognised marriage, says a Mail & Guardian Online report. The couple had argued that the existing SA Marriage Act was unconstitutional because it excluded same sex marriages, and therefore discriminated against gays and lesbians. The court, in a majority decision, declared that under the Constitution the common law concept of marriage was to be developed to embrace same sex partners. It said the intended marriage between Fourie and Bonthuys was capable of lawful recognition as a legally valid marriage, provided the formalities in the Marriage Act were complied with. According to common law, marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This made it impossible for same sex couples to be married to each other. Judge of Appeal Edwin Cameron said in his judgment that the definition of marriage should read: 'Marriage is the union of two persons to the exclusion of all others for life.' The couple challenged a Pretoria High Court decision, in favour of the Department of Home Affairs, which dismissed an application to have their marriage in October 2002 legally recognised. Evert Knoesen of the Gay and L esbian Equality Project, who appeared as amicus curiae in the appeal, said the organisation was happy with the decision, and it had already filed an application in the Johannesburg High Court challenging the statutory regulations. The case would be heard early next year.
Full report on Mail & Guardian Online site

 

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