An effort to amend the marriage laws in Israel has been delayed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Currently in Israel, it is illegal for two people of the same sex to marry. It is also illegal for two people of different religions to marry, and it is also illegal for people who do not belong to an organized religion to marry.
He stated that the reason for this delay is that there was no consensus among his coalition’s factions regarding the issue and that he was willing to move forward on such a bill only after a consensus could be reached. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was set to present the bill to the committee on Sunday.
This seems unlikely to happen given that much of his coalition’s support comes from within the more socially conservative segments of the Israeli political scene.
The bill was set to be considered by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. The bill was introduced by Knesset Member Meir Sheetrit of the Hatnua Party. Sheetrit’s party had stated that they expected broad support for it within the coalition. According to Haaretz, members of the Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu and Likud parties all expressing support for the move. The Orthodox Jewish Home Party had threatened to exercise their right to veto the bill and called for the issue to be studied before a bill could be brought to the Knesset.
Livni stated that “We want to find a solution for the people who came here under the Law of Return and who find themselves unable to marry. We are talking about some 300,000 people.”
The Law of Return grants automatic citizenship to anyone who is considered to be Jewish under the law. Unfortunately, the law has a broader definition of who qualifies as being Jewish than does the state-run rabbinate. Thus, a lot of people who are considered Jewish for the sake of immigration are unable to marry in Israel because the rabbinate does not consider them Jewish.
Livni also said “The bill will make it possible for them to marry and be recognized by the state. It’s an appropriate solution that has been a long time in the making, and has been floated many times, but has previously been met with strong opposition from the ultra-Orthodox parties.”
A report released by the NGO Hiddush in which it noted that Israel ranked in the bottom 23% of the world with regards to the restrictions placed on marriage. This means that Israel ranks along side Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Iran regarding marraige rights. According to the report “Only recognized religious marriage ceremonies are allowed. For Jews, only weddings that are held according to strict Orthodox standards are accepted. There is no option for civil marriage or interfaith marriage. Weddings conducted outside of the country are recognized. 300,000 citizens are defined as ‘without religion’ and they are unable to get married in the country.”