South Africa on Wednesday approved a gay marriage bill legalising same sex marriages, becoming the first country on the continent to do so.
The National Assembly adopted by an overwhelming majority the Civil Rights Union Bill, which allows same sex marriages.
The ANC-led Government majority voted by 230 votes to 41 to pass the bill despite the smaller parties vehemently opposing it.
The Bill will now have to be passed by the lower House of Provinces before it is adopted as law.
It has to be adopted within two weeks in order to meet a constitutional court order that the marriage act must be changed to allow for same sex marriages.
The Constitutional Court made the ruling early this year after two lesbians applied to the court to marry legally.
Opposing the Bill the leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, Kenneth Mesoe, said the passing of the Bill was one of the "saddest days in the twelve years of democracy".
"The Civil Union Bill is opposed by the overwhelming majority of our people", Meshoe told the national assembly.
But the Minister of Defence Mosioua Lekota defended the government's action in promoting and adopting the Bill.
"Lesbians and homosexuals also fought for our freedom", he said. "Why then they should not enjoy the freedom of the new South Africa?", he asked.