Same-sex marriage in Israel

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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 religion 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.[1]

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 Hatnuah and Yesh Atid parties introduced bills that would provide for civil marriage for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.[2]


According to a poll conducted in August 2009, 61% of Israelis supported equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, with 31% opposed.[3] Furthermore, 60% supported joint adoption by same-sex couples, with 34% opposed.[3]

Political system[edit]

Party stances[edit]

Official support[edit]

Political parties that are represented in the Knesset as of 2015 that have expressed support for same-sex marriage include the following:[4]

Other parties' positions[edit]

  • Likud: The official position has not been made clear. Bayit Yehudi opposes it on religious grounds.[6] Individual Likud members, such as Moshe Ya'alon, Limor Livnat, Tzachi Hanegbi, Gila Gamliel, and Miri Regev, have expressed support for gay rights.[7][8][9] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not stated a position.[10] 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."[11]
  • 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.[6][8] 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."[11]
  • 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.[6]
  • 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."[8]

Political landscape[edit]

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,[12][13] and many other ministers and parliament members of both the coalition and opposition announced that they agreed.[14][15] President Shimon Peres also expressed support in 2013.[16]

In February 2009, Knesset member Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) introduced a civil marriage bill which included provision for same-sex marriages.[17] The bill was rejected in May 2012 in a 39 to 11 vote, with 70 not attending.[18]

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.[19] In October 2013, Yesh Atid MKs, led by Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, introduced a similar bill.[20]

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.[21][22][23] 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 the government to act on the issue.[24]

Marriage in Israel[edit]

Main article: 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.[citation needed]

Same-sex wedding ceremonies without legal significance can be conducted in Israel,[25] 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.[26][27]

Foreign same-sex marriages[edit]

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.[1]

Moshe Gafni, an Israeli politician, said that he would consider presenting a bill to the Knesset to attempt to overturn the court ruling. No such bill has been presented.[citation needed]

In December 2012, a Ramat Gan Family court granted a same-sex married couple a legal divorce.[28] This was a first decision of its kind, setting a non-binding precedent.

Recent developments[edit]

In November 2015, the National LGBT Taskforce of Israel petitioned the High Court of Justice to allow same-sex marriage in Israel, arguing that the refusal of the rabbinical court to recognise 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.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Israeli Minister backs down on definition of marriage". 
  2. ^ JODI RUDOREN (29 October 2013). "Centrist Party in Israel Introduces Civil Union Measure". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Three-in-Five Israelis Back Same-Sex Marriage". Angus Reid Public Opinion. Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  4. ^ 2013 Elections: Which parties support same-sex marriage?, Channel 2 News, January 8th, 2013 (Hebrew)
  5. ^ Jonathan Beck (2015-02-02). "Kulanu’s Oren announces support for same-sex marriage". The Times of Israel. 
  6. ^ a b c Lahav Harkov (2015-01-08). "Bennett: No secret Bayit Yehudi opposes gay marriage". The Jerusalem Post. 
  7. ^ Ilan Lior (2013-06-06). "Likud minister to speak for first time at Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade". Haaretz. 
  8. ^ a b c Judy Maltz (17 December 2014). "Where do Israeli lawmakers stand on matters of religion and state?". Haaretz. 
  9. ^ Ilan Lior, Promises, promises: Israeli parties woo LGBT voters, Haaretz, 11 March 2015
  10. ^ Ilan Lior and Haaretz (February 6, 2015). "Israeli defense minister tells LGBT crowd he backs marriages for all". Haaretz. 
  11. ^ a b "The 2015 Israeli Election Compass". Kieskompas. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  12. ^ Minister Ya'alon: "Same-sex Marriage should be allowed in Israel, Globes, May 14th, 2012 (Hebrew)
  13. ^ Ya'alon supports recognition of same-sex marriage, Jerusalem Post, May 14th, 2012
  14. ^ Israeli Gay community congratulates Obama on his announcement, Ha'aretz, May 10th, 2012 (Hebrew)
  15. ^ Obama gay marriage remarks spark debate among Israeli MKs, ministers, Ha'aretz, May 11th, 2012
  16. ^ President Peres supports same-sex marriage: "Everybody has the right to form a family", ynet, December 1st, 2013 (Hebrew)
  17. ^ Israeli Knesset To Consider Gay Marriage
  18. ^ Israeli parliament rejects gay and inter-faith civil marriage bill
  19. ^ Livni to sponsor groundbreaking Knesset bill allowing same-sex civil partnership
  20. ^
  21. ^ Mazal Mualem (June 10, 2013). "Israeli Politicians Address Gay Pride at Parade". Al-Monitor. 
  22. ^ Ophir Bar-Zohar (06.03.12). "Israel's gay community making inroads into political mainstream". Haaretz.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  23. ^ Gil Hoffman (2014-12-22). "Feiglin to meet with gay activists". 
  24. ^ Tel Aviv Mayor Huldai: Israel should follow Ireland’s lead on gay marriage, Jerusalem Post, 28.5.2015
  25. ^ "Same-Sex Marriage in Tel Aviv". Tablet. 
  26. ^ Kraft, Dina (June 16, 2009). "Can gay friendliness boost Israel’s image?". JTA. 
  27. ^ Mitnick, Joshua (August 4, 2009). "Gay Israelis reeling after shooting attack". JTA. 
  28. ^ "In precedent-setting ruling, court allows gay couple to untie the knot". 
  29. ^ "NGO petitions High Court to allow same-sex marriage in Israel". The Jerusalem Post. 2 November 2015.