South Africa this week became the first African country to legalize gay marriage. The Civil Union Act gives both homosexual and heterosexual couples the right to contract civil union partnerships that carry the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. Couples in such unions also have the right to call their union a marriage. Parliament passed the law this week to comply with the Constitutional Court, which recently ruled that barring gays from marriage violated their civil rights. "When we attained our democracy, we sought to distinguish ourselves from an unjust painful past, by declaring that never again shall it be that any South African will be discriminated against on the basis of color, creed, culture, and sex," said Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.