The Yesh Atid party continues to push for civil marriage in Israel, despite opposition from their partners in the coalition, the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party.
On Wednesday, Yesh Atid representative MK Adi Kol recalled her own civil marriage ceremony with satisfaction.
“On this exact day four years ago, Ilan and I married in the office of the city clerk in New York,” she wrote on Facebook. “The ‘wedding’ took 30 seconds, and was conducted by a city worker named Blanca Martinez.”
Kol explained that she and her then-fiance traveled to New York specifically in order to avoid the need for a traditional Jewish ceremony in Israel. “In Israel you can’t have a civil marriage ceremony, so we and many of our friends were forced to go overseas to get married, and to do so with just a small handful of friends,” she wrote.
Israel recognizes all marriage ceremonies performed abroad, including same-sex marriage, and in some cases, polygamous marriage. However, the only ceremonies conducted within Israeli borders that get state recognition are those conducted under the auspices of a recognized religion; for Jews, this means marrying with the approval of the Rabbinate, which recognizes only traditional Jewish ceremonies.
The question of civil marriage has become particularly urgent in recent years due to the presence in Israel of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are of partial Jewish descent, but are not Jewish according to Jewish law (halakha). Only a minority of the immigrants practice a religion other than Judaism; most of the rest find themselves unable to marry through any religion.
Religious Knesset factions have expressed willingness to allow civil marriage for non-Jews marrying non-Jews, but other Knesset factions have refused, stating that civil marriage must be offered to all citizens. Religious parties fear that a blanket authorization for civil marriage would lead to marriage that are strictly prohibited under Jewish law, including marriages between men and women who – according to halakha – are still married to other people.
Yesh Atid plans to put forth a bill that would allow civil marriage during the Knesset’s winter session. According to MK Kol, “The proposed law would allow those who cannot, or those like us who do not want to, marry via the Rabbinate, to join together in a contract of marriage.”
“The time has come,” she added.
The Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan (Bayit Yehudi), has stated that he will strongly oppose any initiative to give state recognition to civil marriages.