On December 1, 2005, the South African Constitutional Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying, giving Parliament one year to amend the 1961 Marriage Act. To comply with the ruling, the South African legislature enacted the Civil Union Act [PDF], requiring that marriage law be changed to ensure equality for gays and lesbians, which became law before the one year deadline. South Africa was the first nation to recognize the rights of gay people in its constitution, drafted after the end of apartheid rule, and it became the first African nation to recognize same-sex marriages.
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Read an overview of Same-Sex Marriage in Features.