Gay Marriages Can Be Registered In Israel

Gay marriages can now be registered

Less than two weeks after the violent protests that turned the planned Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade into a smaller, closed event at the HebrewUniversity stadium died down, the High Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that couples who marry in same-sex ceremonies abroad can be registered as married couples in Israel's Population Registry.

In a vote of 6-1, Justice Elyakim Rubenstein being the sole dissenting vote, the court decreed that homosexual couples who marry abroad will enjoy the same status in the Interior Ministry as heterosexual couples who marry in civil ceremonies outside of Israel.

Moshe Negbi, a legal expert, said the court's decision is mostly symbolic because gay couples in Israel already had many of the rights of heterosexual partnerships. The significant changes are that they will now get the same tax breaks as a married couple and be able to adopt children, Negbi said.

Israeli law stipulates a couple must be married to adopt a child.

"The marriages of same-sex couples who marry in places like Canada where the law recognizes such marriages, will also be recognized in Israel, and they will be registered as married here," Negbi said.

Civil marriages cannot be performed in Israel because of the rabbinate's monopoly on family law. But couples married in civil ceremonies abroad have all the rights of a married couple, and their marriages are registered here. The court uses the term "register" instead of "recognition" to ward off religious criticism of the ruling, Negbi said.

With the ruling Tuesday, "The court says that now, not only heterosexuals, but homosexuals, too, can have civil marriages," Negbi added.

Yossi Ben-Ari and Laurent Schuman were married in Canada after that country legalized same-sex marriage in 2003. Determined, after a 21-year partnership, to enjoy all the privileges of a married couple in Israel, they were among five couples who petitioned the Supreme Court court to have their marriage registered here, too.

"We're delighted, but the struggle is not over," Ben-Ari said. MK Haim Oron (Meretz) also welcomed the decision, while his party colleague Zehava Gal-On called for Interior Minister Roni Bar-On to implement the change immediately.

In contrast, religious MKs raged over the ruling. "I think every thinking person in Israel and the Jewish world is horrified [at the decision]," MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) said in response to the ruling.

"In addition to all the troubles we all have, this is added - the family unit is being completely destroyed," Gafni continued. "Some will object, and some will let it pass quietly. Barak is leaving us a parting gift that signifies the destruction of the family. There were also courts in Sodom and Gomorrah."

"Why is the court interfering in all aspects of our lives?" Gafni continued.

MK Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP) denigrated the decision as "paganism," and said that it "tore the last mezuzah off the door."

In 2005, the Housing and Construction Ministry's decided to grant same-sex couples with at least one child housing benefits, but same-sex marriage - and its legal benefits - remains a non-starter.

Sheera Claire Frenkel and Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.

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