A court in South Africa ruled Friday that the Dutch Reformed Church’s rules against same-sex marriage are “unlawful and invalid.”
The decision comes from the bench of the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria led by Judge Joseph Raulinga, which reversed a decision to not recognize same-sex marriage in the church that was made by the denomination’s general synod in November 2016.
The general synod’s 2016 decision came after the Dutch Reformed Church moved in 2015 to allow individual church councils to recognize same-sex marriages. The decision was reversed a year later after immense pressure from church members.
Along with not allowing same-sex marriage, the church required lesbian and gay people to remain celibate if they choose to serve as clergy.
The synod’s 2016 decision was challenged by the Rev. Laurie Gaum, his father, Frits Gaum, and eight other members of the Dutch Reformed Church, all of whom advocate for LGBT issues and launched litigation in an attempt to have the synod’s decision ruled unconstitutional.
They claimed that the church’s position violated section 9 of the South African Constitution that deals with equality and discrimination, according to SABC News.
Minister Andre Bartlett, who fought for the right of same-sex relationships, praised the court’s decision.
“Gay members of the church are fully accepted and can be elected to all positions in the church, whether they are in relationships or not,” Bartlett told the South African television outlet eNCA after the ruling. “It also means that church councils that don’t feel free to elect people to their councils can do so.”
Bartlett assured that the ruling means that gay ministers can be licensed and ordained whether they are in relationships or not.
“The only norm would be that all relationships in the church — whether they are heterosexual or homosexual — there are certain norms that have to be held to,” he said.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith