The Knesset Law Committee on Wednesday approved an NIS 600 registration fee for
individuals who want a civil marriage, paving the way for the implementation of
the law allowing the procedure in the next few days.
The law will permit
non-Jewish Israelis, or citizens defined by the state as lacking religious
denomination, to have a civil marriage and be recognized as a married
Knesset passes civil union bill
Guest Columnist: Good intentions, wrong solution
Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem, who initiated the legislation,
said after the committee’s meeting that the law solves a problem for thousands
of non- Jewish Israeli citizens who until now could not marry legally in Israel
and had to travel to Cyprus or other countries to do so.
“This is the
first step to solving one problem, but I intend to see this proposed law through
to its conclusion, as laid out to the Knesset. I intend to ask for the civil
union to be extended to any person who desires it, not just those without an
officially defined religion,” said Rotem.
The original bill proposed by
Rotem had called for establishing the option of a civil marriage for all
Israelis. However, he was forced to back down from his grand plan because of
opposition from the haredi parties in the coalition.
Yizhar Hess, CEO of
the Conservative Movement, said in response to the Knesset’s decision Wednesday,
“Not with ease, but in honesty, we wish to congratulate MK David Rotem on the
Law Committee’s decision this morning.
The fact that in the State of
Israel there is now an official role to manage the registration of civil
marriages will pave the way for – and for this we are fighting – an expansion of
the civil unions law to include all those who wish to marry [via an artery]
other than through the Chief Rabbinate.
“Currently, and absurdly, only
those who can show a certificate saying that they are ‘without denomination’ can
benefit from the law, but we will fight to change this. I’m not sure if he meant
to do it, but MK Rotem built the framework for the establishment of civil
marriage in Israel,” said Hess.
The Knesset passed the law in March.
However, it could only go into effect after the committee approved the
regulations for the law, which it did on Wednesday.
Opponents of the
measure have expressed concern that it would increase the power of the Chief
Rabbinate, since it would grant the Rabbinate the right to determine whether an
Israeli citizen who claimed he was “without religion” actually was without a
The bill applies only to couples, both of whom are classified
as without a religion. It will affect only a small percentage of those who do
not want a religious wedding officiated by a rabbi. In Israel, only Orthodox
rabbis may officiate at weddings for Jewish Israelis, and both husband and wife
must be Jewish.
Currently, Israelis may only have their civil marriage
recognized in Israel if the marriage took place overseas – in which case, the
couple then applies for recognition to the Interior Ministry when the two
partners return to Israel. Even so, such marriages are not recognized by the
Chief Rabbinate.Jonah Mandel and Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this