Chef Mark Gory has won his historic case, in the Pretoria High Court, to have sections of the inheritance law declared unconstitutional, and to become heir to his partner’s estate.

Judge Willie Hartzenberg declared that sections of the intestate succession act – which dictates who inherits the estates of married people without children and a will – that exclude reference to same-sex partners are unconstitutional. This means that a person whose same-sex partner dies without a will is entitled to inherit the estate in the same way as a heterosexual married spouse is.

Gory had taken the matter to the court when the family of his deceased life partner, Henry Brooks, forced him out of the house he had shared with Brooks. According to the law at the time, Gory stood to inherit nothing after Brooks died suddenly in April 2005 without a will.

The family opposed Gory’s action in court.

The Judge ruled that all items taken from Gory, including the house in question, be returned to him. An ecstatic Gory told reporters after the judgment, which saw him inherit an estate with a net worth of less than R10 000 that, “I never wanted to fight about it… It was about the sanctity of our relationship.”

The estate’s executor, who the judge had previously described as “arrogant and sarcastic”, and Brooks’ parents were ordered to pay the costs of the case. Hartzenberg judgment is not retrospective, but will apply to future cases.

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