Rights of a ‘spouse’ in a same-sex relationship

The Gory and Brooks case changed the law

At a time when same-sex marriages were not allowed Mark Gory and his partner, Henry Brooks, met in 2003, bought a house in 2004 and lived together as a married couple until Brooks died suddenly, without a will, in April 2005.

Brooks’s family started taking things from the house, eventually forcing Gory out.
He went to court and explained that they had established a home, lived together and shared expenses as if they were a married couple. Gory and Brooks never officially married, but Brooks gave him a platinum wedding band and announced their commitment to each other at a special party attended by Brooks’s parents.
The Pretoria High Court declared Gory to be the sole heir to his partner’s estate. The judge held that the Intestate Succession Act was unconstitutional in failing to acknowledge both spouses and partners in permanent, same-sex life relationships with reciprocal duties of support. The definition of ‘spouse’ has since been changed in the Act by including the survivor of a same-sex relationship where the parties shared a reciprocal duty of support.
However, since December 2007, same-sex couples have been allowed to get married. If they choose not to get married they should enter into a life partnership agreement and make wills or else a court may not come to the assistance of a surviving partner.

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