South Africa has become the newest country to allow gays and lesbians to marry their partners. South Africa's highest court ruled it is unconstitutional to prevent gay people from marrying. Parliament has a year to act on the ruling.
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- South Africa's highest court ruled Thursday it is unconstitutional to prevent gay people from marrying, paving the way for the country to become the first to legalize same-sex unions on a continent where homosexuality remains largely taboo.
But the Constitutional Court gave Parliament a year to make the necessary legal changes, disappointing activists -- some of whom have been waiting years to marry.
South Africa recognized the rights of gays in the constitution adopted after apartheid ended in 1994 -- the first in the world to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But the government has opposed attempts to extend the definition of marriage in court to include same-sex couples.
There was no immediate comment from the government on Thursday's decision.
Heterosexual married couples in South Africa have numerous rights that are denied to gay couples, including the ability to make decisions on each other's behalf in medical emergencies and inheritance rights if a partner dies without a will.