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Gay marriage law is continent's first

South Africa on Thursday became the first country in Africa, and only the fifth in the world, to legalize same sex marriages.

The Civil Union Act went into effect a day ahead of a Dec. 1 deadline set by the country's Constitutional Court, which required the marriage law be changed to ensure equality for gay and lesbians.

The law includes provisions allowing clergy and civil marriage officers to turn away gay couples if their consciences prevented them from marrying them.

The Roman Catholic Church and Muslim groups denounced the legislation as violating the sanctity of marriage.

Homosexuality is still largely taboo in Africa. It is illegal in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana and most other sub-Saharan countries. Even in South Africa, gays and lesbians are often attacked because of their sexual orientation.

Elsewhere

NAMIBIA: The U.N. World Food Program said Thursday it may halt food distribution to 90,000 orphans and vulnerable children in Namibia by the end of the year because of a critical shortage of funding. WFP is facing a shortfall of $4-million for its operations in Namibia through to April. In the rest of southern Africa, it needs $48-million for programs in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

ANGOLA: The largest sub-Saharan oil producer in Africa after Nigeria said it will apply to join OPEC next month. The oil cartel's secretary general, Mohammed Barkindo, said Sudan also was poised to join. He gave no timetable for Angola or Sudan to join the group that has not welcomed a new member since 1975.

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