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Daily Israel Report

Supreme Court Grants Symbolic Recognition to Same-Sex Marriages

The High Court ruled that same-sex marriages registered abroad must be listed in the Interior Ministry registry - a step short of full recognition. MK Gafni: "Sodom & Gomorra also had High Courts."
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 11/22/2006, 12:14 AM / Last Update: 11/21/2006, 10:34 AM

Six judges were in favor of the revolutionary ruling, while only one, Elyakim Rubenstein, objected. The majority was headed by former Chief Justice Aharon Barak, who recently retired; he is now completing the three-month period in which he can write rulings on cases he heard.

The ruling obligates the Interior Ministry to register the same-sex marriage-arrangements for "statistical purposes" only, Barak emphasizes. Despite the disclaimers, however, it is clear to both opponents and supporters that the symbolic value of the ruling is enormous.

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said he intends to see if the ruling can be mooted by legislation, and if so, he will propose a private bill on the issue. "In Sodom and Gomorrah, too, there were courts and a High Court and everything was done legally... This means the destruction of the family cell in Israel."

MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) said, "This ruling is the true victory of the gay pride parade. This is an appropriate and symbolic summation of Barak's term and his legacy, at the center of which is human dignity."

Minister Yitzchak Cohen (Shas): "The Supreme Court has now sunk into the '49 gates of impurity' and has torn down the last mezuzah [Torah-mandated ritual parchment containing Torah passages and placed at home entrances] from its doorposts."

"Marriage is only between man and woman in accordance with Jewish law," Cohen said. "Any other hybrid is like a bond between an animal, tree or rock to a person. Under the Supreme Court's auspices, the dam protecting the only Jewish state has been burst."

MK Rabbi Yitzchak Levy (National Union/National Religious Party) responded: "The Supreme Court has become the enemy of the Jewish State, and the founder of a 'state of all its citizens.' This ruling brings a large portion of the public in Israel to have no trust in the Supreme Court and what it represents."

MK Zevulun Orlev (National Union/National Religious Party): "The ruling is a type of idol-worship that totally undermines the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and of generations of Jewish culture. For those who wish to see Israel as a Jewish state, today is a day of mourning."

"We hereby rule," Justice Barak wrote, "that in the framework of its status as registrar of statistics of the Population Registry... the Registry clerk must register the complainants [five male couples who were registered in Toronto as married to each other - ed.] in accordance with their public documents stating they are married. We are not ruling that same-sex marriages are recognized in Israel; we are not recognizing a new status of these marriages; we are not taking any stand regarding Israel's recognition of same-sex marriages carried out outside of Israel. The answer to these questions... is difficult and complex... It is to be hoped that the Knesset will be able to relate to these, or some of these, questions."

As the lone dissenting justice - the religiously-observant Rubenstein - wrote, the fact that the Court requires a listing in the Population Registry "goes a long way towards a comprehensive arrangement on this matter, and therefore it should be ruled upon [not by the Court, but rather] by the legislature."

Rubenstein quoted a previous ruling by Barak himself, according to which, "There are some matters, very unique, in which the executive branch has no authority to rule on fundamental matters that divide the nation... and they must be decided in the legislature."