South Africa’s highest court has ruled that same sex marriages must be considered the same under the law as heterosexual marriages. The ruling makes South AFrica the fifth country to remove legal barriers to gay and lesbian unions. The winds of change are ablowin’.

Meanwhile, the rightwing in the U.S. is still trying to push us in the opposite direction. No doubt the new-look Bush court featuring Roberts and Alito would rule against gay marriage in the U.S. And with the GOP very weak heading into ’06, I’m sure we will see a huge anti-gay push by the right in order to get the fanatics and bigots out to the polls next November.

Details on the South Africa ruling are after the break.

… the Constitutional Court said the refusal to give legal status to gay marriages, though grounded in common law, violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights. The justices said marriage laws must be amended to include the words “or spouse” alongside provisions that now refer to “husbands” and “wives.”

The decision was essentially unanimous, with one of the court’s 12 judges arguing that the ruling should take effect immediately rather than being stayed.

There it is, plain and simple: a ban on gay marriage violates equal rights.

… the court stayed its ruling for a year to give Parliament time to amend a 1961 marriage law to reflect its decision. Should the legislature balk, the court said, the law will be automatically changed to make it conform with the ruling.

Few expect Parliament to resist, even though Africans are generally intolerant of gay relationships and many South Africans are conservative on social issues. Among political factions here, only the tiny African Christian Democratic Party, whose positions carry a strong religious undercurrent, called for a constitutional amendment to bar gay marriages.

The African National Congress, which controls the presidency and more than two-thirds of Parliament’s seats, was silent on the court’s decision.

So even in a land of bigotry, the court made the correct legal ruling. Dare we hope for the same thing here?

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