Same-sex marriage in Israel
Same-sex marriage cannot legally be performed in Israel. Under the confessional community system that operates in Israel, each of the recognized confessional communities regulates the personal status, including marriage and divorce, of its members. The state views marriage as a religious institution and as such does not issue marriage licences, regardless of sexual orientation. This is intended to secure the separation of church and state and aims to prevent conflict between the various religions in the country. The religious authority for the Jewish majority marriages is the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and there are parallel authorities for Christians, Muslims, Druze and nine Christian authorities, with a total of 15 religious courts. These regulate all marriages and divorces for their own communities. Currently they all oppose same-sex marriages. If the views of one of these bodies were to change, however, it would be legal for members of that religious community to enter into same-sex marriages in Israel. However, religious denominations that are in favour of same-sex marriage have been refused recognition in the confessional community system.
Same-sex marriages performed abroad can be recorded at the Israeli Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration, according to a 2006 High Court of Justice ruling which defined such records as strictly 'for statistical purposes', thereby avoiding official recognition of same-sex marriages by the state.
Despite the fact that same-sex marriage (or opposite-sex civil marriage) remains non-existent in the State of Israel, unmarried same-sex and opposite-sex couples in Israel have equal access to nearly all of the rights of marriage in the form of unregistered cohabitation status, similar to common-law marriage. In 2013, the Yesh Atid party introduced a bill that would provide for civil marriage for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.
According to a poll conducted in August 2009, 61% of Israelis supported equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, with 31% opposed. Furthermore, 60% supported joint adoption by same-sex couples, with 34% opposed.
Political parties that are (or are expected to be) represented in the Knesset that have expressed support for same-sex marriage include the following:
- Likud: The official position has not been made clear, although individual Likud members, such as Moshe Ya'alon, Limor Livnat, Tzachi Hanegbi, and Gila Gamliel, have expressed support for gay rights. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reached out to LGBT voters. On the electoral compass devised by Kieskompas for the 2015 election, Likud was categorized as "Tend to agree" with the statement "Same-sex marriage should be legalized."
- Israel Beytenu: Although the party is a vocal supporter of civil marriage in general, the official position on the subject of gay rights has not been made clear. On the electoral compass devised by Kieskompas for the 2015 election, Israel Beytenu was categorized as "Tend to disagree" with the statement "Same-sex marriage should be legalized."
- The Jewish Home: The Jewish Home opposes same-sex marriage but is in favor of extending certain rights, such as tax breaks, to same-sex couples.
- Shas: Although the party is consistently conservative on matters of religion and state, Shas MK Ya'akov Margi told Jewish Pluralism Watch, in response to its question on gay rights, that "Israeli citizens' rights cannot be neglected, no matter what they think and how they behave in their personal lives."
After U.S. President Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage in May 2012, opposition leader and Labor Party head Shelly Yachimovich, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon of the governing Likud party, and many other ministers and parliament members of both the coalition and opposition announced that they agreed. President Shimon Peres also expressed support in 2013.
In February 2009, Knesset member Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) introduced a civil marriage bill which included provision for same-sex marriages. The bill was rejected in May 2012 in a 39 to 11 vote, with 70 not attending.
Following the General Elections of 2013, two same-sex marriage supporting parties entered the governing coalition: Yesh Atid and Hatnua. In June 2013, Hatnuah MKs, led by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni introduced a bill that would provide for civil marriage in Israel for both heterosexual and homosexual couples. In October 2013, Yesh Atid MKs, led by Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, introduced a similar bill.
Meretz and Hadash have long had gay divisions. In 2009, Kadima, led by Tzipi Livni, became the first major party of the center to establish a gay division. Labor and Likud soon followed suit.
Marriage in Israel
The religious authority for Jewish marriages is the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and there are parallel authorities for Christians, Muslims and Druze with a total of 15 religious courts. These regulate all marriages and divorces for their own communities. Currently they all oppose same-sex marriages. If the views of one of these bodies were to change, however, it would be legal for members of that religious community to enter into same-sex marriages in Israel.
Same-sex wedding ceremonies without legal significance can be conducted in Israel, which, coupled with legally recognized foreign marriages, allows for both same-sex wedding ceremonies in Israel and legal recognition of same-sex marriages in Israel, on condition that the marriage certificates come from another country. The first unofficial municipal wedding took place in August 2009 following the Tel Aviv Pride Parade; five couples were married by Mayor Ron Huldai. The traditional verse for wedding ceremonies from Psalm 137, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither..." was used, but replacing Jerusalem with Tel Aviv, Israel's most gay-friendly city.
Foreign same-sex marriages
On November 21, 2006 the High Court of Justice ruled that the Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration must record same-sex marriages performed abroad. The case was filed by five male Israeli couples married in Canada. The ruling specifies that a record made by the Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration is a statistical record which does not constitute official recognition of same-sex marriage by the state.
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