010593414500_1In another display of how other nations are more progressive than Americans, the South African Parliament on Tuesday approved new legislation recognizing gay marriages.

The Associated Press reports that, the National Assembly passed the Civil Union Bill, worked out after months of heated public discussion, by a majority of 230 to 41 votes despite criticism from both traditionalists and gay activists and warnings that it might be unconsitutional. There were three abstentions.

The bill provides for the "voluntary union of two persons, which is solemnized and registered by either a marriage or civil union." It does not specify whether they are heterosexual or homosexual partnerships.

But it also says marriage officers need not perform a ceremony between same-sex couples if doing so would conflict with his or her "conscience, religion and belief."

"When we attained our democracy, we sought to distinguish ourselves from an unjust painful past, by declaring that never again shall it be that any South African will be discriminated against on the basis of color, creed culture and sex," Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the National Assembly.

The bill had been expected to pass given the overwhelming majority of the ruling African National Congress, despite unease among rank and file lawmakers. It now has to go to the National Council of Provinces, which is expected to be a formality, before being signed into law by President Thabo Mbeki.

Fellow blogger Rod 2.0 has an interesting report on "Now that It’s Legal, Who’s Getting Married in South Africa."