Israel is one of the few countries in the world where only religious marriage may be performed. To get a civil marriage, non-practicing couples fly to Cyprus, whose marriages are of course recognizable by the State of Israel. Now the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that the state must similarly recognize single-sex marriages performed in countries that have them (via Coturnix).
[Link] In a precedent-setting ruling, the High Court of Justice on Tuesday ruled that five gay couples wedded outside of Israel can be registered as married couples.
A sweeping majority of six justices to one ruled that the civil marriages of five gay couples obtained in Toronto, Canada, can appear as married on the population registry.
The gay petitioners sought to force the state to give equal recognition to common law marriages of heterosexual couples to those of gay marriages, which can be performed in certain countries.
Although the article cites gay rights groups as saying that this is a sweeping victory, it’s important to note that the court ruling is different from those in Massachusetts and Canada. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled that single-sex marriage was legal in Canada. Individual churches are still free not to marry single-sex couples, but civil marriage is sexual orientation-neutral.
In contrast, in Israel no single-sex marriages may be performed. Israeli marriage law is entirely religious. Jews may only marry according to Rabbinical law, Muslims may only marry according to Muslim law, etc.; atheism is of course not recognized at all. Rabbinical law forbids many more combinations than male-male and female-female – for instance, a man with the family name Cohen may not marry a divorced woman, and a person born to a married woman from a father other than her husband may not marry at all.
All the ruling is saying is that just like the state recognizes heterosexual civil marriage performed in other countries even if religious law would forbid it, so must it recognize single-sex civil marriage performed in other countries. Of the few countries in the world that permit SSM in their own territory, the Netherlands is geographically the nearest to Israel, so poor gay couples will likely have trouble getting married.
But that, of course, doesn’t prevent the religious fundamentalists from going nuts.
The minister in charge over religious affairs, Yitzhak Cohen (Shas*) said “the High Court has sunken in the gates of defilement and has torn out the last mezuzah from its doors. Marriage can only be held by the faith of Moses and Yisrael [the traditional Jewish marriage vows].
“The dam that protected the Jewish state has been burst open under the auspices of the High Court, asking for an anti-Jewish deluge clad in black capes,” he said.
“We don’t have a Jewish state here. We have Sodom and Gomorrah here,” said Moshe Gafni, an ultra-Orthodox lawmaker, referring to two cities the Bible said was destroyed because their citizens were so sinful.
* Shas is the largest ultra-Orthodox party in the Knesset; its success is due to combining religious fundamentalism with ethnic populism – it’s strictly Mizrahi, with ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazis having a separate party – which reaches out to low-income Mizrahi voters who are merely socially conservative but not very religious.