Recognition of same-sex unions in Israel
Same-sex marriage is not legal in Israel. The Israeli Government has registered same-sex marriages performed abroad for some purposes since 2006. However, since the state has yet to legalize civil marriage in Israel, those who choose to get married must turn to one of the 15 religious marriage courts recognized by the state. As of 2017[update], none of these 15 religious courts permit same-sex marriage under their respective auspices. Consequently, Israelis who desire to have their same-sex marriage recognized by the Israeli Government must first marry outside Israel, in a jurisdiction where such marriages are legal, and then register upon returning home.
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.
Same-sex marriages performed abroad in a jurisdiction where such marriages are legal can be recorded at the Israeli Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration, according to a November 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. The case was filed by five male Israeli couples married in Canada.
In December 2016, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit issued an instruction to Israel's Interior Ministry to consider applications for citizenship by same-sex and opposite-sex couples equally under the same terms. The same-sex spouse of an Israeli will now be able to claim Israeli citizenship at the same speed as an opposite-sex spouse. Previously, same-sex couples had to wait up to seven years, and would generally only be granted permanent residency, rather than citizenship. The process was far quicker for opposite-sex couples. The decision came in response to a lawsuit filed before the High Court of Justice by the Gay Fathers Association.
Same-sex marriages solemnised overseas are not recognised by religious authorities in Israel.
Despite the fact that same-sex marriage (or opposite-sex civil marriage) is not legal in Israel, unmarried same-sex and opposite-sex couples have equal access to many of the rights of marriage in the form of unregistered cohabitation (Hebrew: זוגיות לא-רשומה; Arabic: المساكنة غير المسجلة) status, similar to common-law marriage.
In February 2009, MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) introduced a civil marriage bill which included provisions for same-sex marriages. The bill was rejected in May 2012 in a 39 to 11 vote, with 70 not attending.
In March 2010, the Knesset passed the Civil Union Law for Citizens with no Religious Affiliation, 2010 (Hebrew: 2010-חוק ברית הזוגיות לחסרי דת, התש"ע; Arabic: قانون الاتحاد المدني للمواطنين عديمي الانتماء الديني، 2010). The law allows couples to form a civil union in Israel if they are both registered as officially not belonging to any religion. The couple, however, has to be an opposite-sex couple. In October 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the law. By 2016, only 121 couples had entered into civil unions.
In June 2013, Hatnuah MKs, led by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, introduced a bill that would have provided for civil unions in Israel for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. In October 2013, Yesh Atid MKs, led by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, introduced a similar bill. Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On introduced a civil marriage bill which included provisions for same-sex marriages.
On 8 July 2015, the Knesset rejected the civil union bill proposed by Yesh Atid and the civil marriage bill proposed by Meretz. The Knesset voted 39-50 to reject the two bills. Hatnuah's bill was rejected by the Knesset on 22 February 2016 in a 40-47 vote.
A same-sex marriage bill failed in the Knesset in June 2018 by three votes, 42 to 39. The bill's sponsor, MK Stav Shaffir from The Zionist Union, blamed its failure on MKs from the Coalition Government who promised publicly that they would vote in favor, but instead chose to vote against or abstain from voting. The vote happened shortly after an estimated 250,000 people marched in the Tel Aviv Pride parade and an opinion poll found a large majority of Israelis in support of same-sex marriage.
In November 2015, the National LGBT Taskforce of Israel petitioned the Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriage in the country, arguing that the refusal of the rabbinical court to recognize same-sex marriage should not prevent civil courts from performing same-sex marriages. The court did not immediately rule against the validity of the petition. In January 2017, at a public hearing and in its capacity as the High Court of Justice, two justices of the court implied the issue of civil and same-sex marriage is the responsibility of the Knesset, rather than the courts. The court handed down its ruling on 31 August 2017, determining the issue was the responsibility of the Knesset, and not the judiciary.
- Likud: The official position has not been made clear. Individual Likud members, such as Moshe Ya'alon, Limor Livnat, Tzachi Hanegbi, Gila Gamliel and Miri Regev, have expressed support for gay rights, and one of the party's members, Amir Ohana, is openly gay. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not stated a position on same-sex marriage, though he has expressed support for LGBT rights. 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".
- Yisrael 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, Yisrael 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 on religious grounds, 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." In September 2017, Shas MK Yigal Guetta resigned from the Knesset under pressure from rabbis after attending the marriage of his gay nephew.
- United Torah Judaism: The party opposes same-sex marriage and LGBT rights more broadly.
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. Former President Shimon Peres also expressed support for same-sex marriage in 2013.
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. Yesh Atid also has a gay division.
In February 2013, Mayor of Tel Aviv Ron Huldai expressed his support of same-sex marriage. In May 2015, following Ireland's legalization of same-sex marriage through popular vote, Huldai reiterated his support, calling on the Government to act on the issue.
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.
A Rafi Smith Institute poll conducted in June 2017 asked Israelis: "Do you think same-sex couples should be permitted to marry or have civil unions in Israel?" In total, 79% expressed support for either same-sex marriage or civil unions. When divided by political affiliation, 100% of Meretz and Zionist Union (Labor and Hatnuah) voters were in favour of recognizing same-sex unions, 94% of Yesh Atid voters were in support, 90% of Kulanu voters, 84% of Likud voters, 83% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters and 65% of The Jewish Home voters. A majority of Shas and United Torah Judaism voters were against recognizing same-sex unions. The margin of error was 4.5%.
A June 2018 survey found that 58% of Israelis were in favour of same-sex marriage. Additionally, 59 Knesset members (MKs) responded to the survey. Of these, 47 expressed support for same-sex marriage, while the remaining 12 expressed their opposition. When divided by political parties, all Meretz and Labor lawmakers responded and answered "yes" when asked if they support same-sex marriage. 4 Likud lawmakers expressed support, while 2 said they were opposed; the remaining didn't answer. Kulanu had two supportive MKs, with the rest not responding. The Jewish Home, Shas and United Torah Judaism together had 5 opposed MKs and none in favour. The Joint List had two in support, five in opposition and six who didn't answer. No Yisrael Beiteinu lawmaker responded to the survey. LGBT activists subsequently urged the Knesset to act on the issue and legalise same-sex marriage, as "there is broad public support".
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