Love is love: LGBT community calls for acceptance in legal battle

Pretoria – # LOVE is LOVE was the general message that members of the gay and lesbian community brought on Tuesday during the legal challenge in which certain members of the Dutch Reformed Church challenged the change of heart of the church with regard to homosexual engagements.

One side of the public gallery in the Supreme Court of Gauteng, Pretoria, was taken by various church fathers and leaders. The other side was a display of black T-shirts with the message of love, with images of heterosexual and homosexual couples holding each other's hands.

The general theme of the bearers of the message of love was "not unfairly discriminating against anyone, but embracing people for who they are". The message on the part of church leaders was that they generally do not prevent homosexual commitments. But it is not allowed in their church.

A full court of three judges was asked by the Dutch Dutch reformed member Laurie Gaum, his father Frits Gaum, a well-known cleric, and others to defame the church's decision in 2016, in which it went back to his word on the same sex unions. .

The church came into the news when it announced in 2015 that the different congregations could decide for themselves whether they would give their blessing to homosexual unions. A year later, under pressure from a number of members, it was announced that a gay or lesbian person can only be a servant if he or she is celibate. Ministers were no longer allowed to homogenise civil unions for the same sex.

Attorney Schalk Burger SC, for the church, said that this decision was not taken lightly. He argued that since 2004 his general synod confirmed his position against gay unions in the church. It changed its position in 2015, but because of much opposition from its members, it decided to return to its earlier position at a special session of the synod.

He said that some said that embracing homosexual associations was based on false doctrine and unscriptural, while others embraced it. There was a vote and it was decided against these trade unions. Burger said their 2015 decision was never cast in stone.

Attorney Jeremy Gauntlett SC argued on behalf of Gaum and the other applicants that the attitude of the church is that if her gay or lesbian members were not happy with the decision of 2016, they could leave.

He said that the Church makes the applicants "incorrigible devotees", while the only thing they try to do is to protect their constitutional rights.

Gauntlett argued that the church is hiding behind the argument of freedom of religion, while surpassing the rights of the petitioners. According to him, it is clear that the church discriminates against a number of sexual orientation of its members. This, he said, can be compared with racial and other discrimination.

Gauntlett further argued that the Church can not live in its own small world and privatize discrimination because it was clearly against the Bill of Rights.

The debate heated after lunch, when Burger argued that there is no ban on gay marriages, as long as it did not happen in the Dutch Reformed Church.

This has caused Judge Joseph Raulinga to ask several times if this is not discrimination. He asked if it was not discriminatory if heterosexual people were embraced by the church, while homosexual sexes were rejected.

Burger replied that this was not unfair discrimination. He said that at least there was discrimination on both sides. "If the applicants would succeed in submitting their application, it would mean that the Church has not fulfilled what they think is the will of God," he replied. He further argued that if the court were to judge in favor of the applicants, this would have far-reaching consequences – even for other churches. "Most churches will be unhappy," he said.

According to Burger, this court was in any case not competent to decide on the case. He said it should have gone to the Court for Equality.

The judgment was reserved.

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