NGO: Civil marriage debate irrelevant

Alternative unions are answer to Orthodox monopoly on marriage, New Family says.

By
April 6, 2010 03:48
3 minute read.
Irit Rosenblum

irit rosenblum 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

As Israel Beiteinu and other proponents of civil or non-Orthodox marriages continue to grapple with religious leaders and politicians, in an attempt to change the status quo, a grassroots revolution is rendering the debate irrelevant, according to Irit Rosenblum, executive director of the New Family Organization.

Her group champions the rights of Israelis to establish marriages or unions outside of the traditional system.

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“There is no urgent reason to legislate civil marriages any more,” Rosenblum told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Sunday. “There have been so many legal changes to the status of common law marriages and other types of unions that it is simply no longer needed.”

Rosenblum is referring to the increasing popularity of the organization’s ‘Teudat Zugiout’ or legal declaration of a marriage-like partnership, which last month won New Family the prestigious Excellence in Legal Marketing Award bestowed by the Washington-based Hildebrandt Institute.

Over the past few months, New Family has expanded its informational campaign on alternative marriage unions and has been promoting the small plastic marriage card in video clips on YouTube.

More than 9,000 couples have declared their unions before a lawyer and are now recognized by the Income Tax Authority and the National Insurance Institute as married under Israeli law, Rosenblum said.

“A couple that is already sharing the same household and is considered in a common law marriage can simply declare before a lawyer that they are partners and then receive the certificate,” she explained. “It’s like an affidavit and is legally binding under the laws of the State of Israel.”

The Teudat Zugiout, continued Rosenblum, is only one of a series of changes instigated by New Family that has made the debate over civil marriage – a marriage outside of Orthodoxy’s strict religious criteria – completely irrelevant.

“In most Western countries, people are just not interested in getting married any more, and most places recognize this,” she said. “More and more people are against having to ask permission from the state to get married.”

The organization believes this type of union provides an answer for more than 300,000 Israelis in the Jewish sector, mostly immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who cannot get married here because of the Orthodox Rabbinate’s monopoly on life-style events, where only those considered halachicly Jewish can marry Jews.

Israel Beiteinu, the party headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, is attempting to push through legislation it says will ease marriage restrictions on citizens not considered halachicly Jewish.

However, many of the party’s supporters say that the Civil Union bill in its present format does not go far enough. Sponsored by Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem, it would only allow civil marriages between two people not considered Jewish, and not between a person not recognized as Jewish and a person who is.

A study carried out last December by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice and the Israel Women’s Network found that 44 percent of Israel Beiteinu voters are extremely disappointed with the pending legislation.

Even though Rotem says this is the first step in a very difficult process and will solve the challenges faced by some, many NGOs working for change in the marriage status quo say it will actually have a negative effect.

“This law serves nobody,” Rosenblum declared Rosenblum. “If we want change to happen in this country then the revolution needs to start with the grassroots and not by creating legislation for civil marriages.

“Across the entire Western world, common law marriages and cohabitation are the accepted norm,” she said, adding that only this path will enable those who are not allowed to get married here or those who do not want to get married religiously to become fully fledged partners recognized by law.


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