Equality and same sex relationships vs judicial entanglement in religion: Gaum v Van Rensburg

In Gaum and Others v Van Rensburg NO and Others (40819/17) [2019] ZAGPPHC 52, the North Gauteng High Court ruled that the decision on same sex relationships adopted by the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in 2016, reversing its previous decision of 2015, was unlawful and invalid.


In 2015, the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church – the Nederduits Gereformeede Kerk (NGK) – confirmed that marriage was the union of one man and one woman. At the same time, however, it also reconfirmed the equality of all people irrespective of their sexual orientation and gave recognition to the status of civil unions between persons of the same sex that are characterised by love and fidelity. It permitted ministers to solemnise such unions, though it placed no positive duty on any individual minister to do so. Crucially for what follows, it also removed the obligation of celibacy for gays or lesbians who were to be ordained as ministers or elders in the Church [2]. In 2016, however, that decision was set aside, Continue reading