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Old July 4th 03, 12:52 AM
Don Souter
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Default The gay unfriendly Premier Marais

Just a few months after jumping into bed with the African National
Congress, new Western Cape Premier Peter Marais has entangled himself in
controversy by launching an attack on gays.

Marais, well known for his hard-line anti-abortion and pro-death penalty
views, was quoted in the March edition of the Afrikaans magazine Insig as
saying he will "especially" not encourage gay rights and that he "will
never push the Cape as a pink tourism city".

Discomfort with the newly formed agreement between the ANC and the New
National Party was evidenced by a cool response to Marais's comments from
ANC leader in the Western Cape, Ebrahim Rasool, who said an agreement
between the two parties allowed them to disagree on issues.=20

"The ANC respects Premier Marais's right to voice his opinions, even though=

we may not necessarily agree with him," said Rasool. "Marais is within his
rights and is entitled to his opinions."=20

However, ANC national spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama warned Marais that "If he=

had to raise issues like that in Parliament, he would be challenged".=20

Marais once nearly won support in the gay and lesbian fraternity by
retorting that Durban mayor Obed Mlaba was "green with envy at our pink
community" after Mlaba said that "Cape Town can stay with its moffies and
its gays".=20

NNP media director Francois Beukman said Marais is entitled to his
opinions, but that the "NNP is committed to the constitutional positions"
on moral issues.

"The issue of gay and lesbian rights is the same as the death penalty, red
light districts and the decriminalisation of dagga," says Beukman. "These
are all moral issues and when confronted with legislative and policy
measures related to issues of conscience and religion, NNP public
representatives are allowed a free vote."

Ngonyama played down ANC responsibility for Marais saying they are "not in
an alliance" and that "they can follow their own policy. All we can do is
try to persuade them to change their policy."=20

Marais, responding to a question on whether he would try to prohibit gay
rights, said: "The Lord always leads me =85 People have become so liberal
that they question the existence of God. Not Peter Marais. Look what the
Lord did to the City of Sodom. He destroyed it."

He has previously attacked the constitutional provision relating to sexual
orientation by saying that "Christians must choose between the Constitution=

and the Bible, because the former was written by communists under the
disguise of democracy".

He also attacked government's position on the death penalty saying, "If the=

death penalty was a provincial choice, then I would hold a referendum
tomorrow to reinstate it".

"The Constitution is clear on issues raised by Marais and we have no doubt
that his respect for the Constitution is undiminished," says Rasool.

Marais was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

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