A ministerial panel will discuss the possibility of allowing civil unions, after the Ministerial Committee for Legislation chose not to vote on a bill on the topic Sunday.

Legislation by Hatnua MK Meir Sheetrit recognizing civil marriages as “an agreement between a man and woman to live together as a couple and have a family life and joint household without getting married according to Israeli personal law” was on the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s docket, before Hatnua, Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi reached an agreement to discuss the matter in a designated ministerial committee.

The explanatory section of Sheetrit’s bill clarifies that it is not meant to weaken religious marriage, but to find solutions allowing for non-Jewish immigrants to wed, and for couples in common-law marriages to receive the same benefits as those who were officially married.

Although the bill clearly refers only to heterosexual couples, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni took to Army Radio to say its passage will allow gay marriage, as long as the Bayit Yehudi doesn’t veto it.

“We’re in a government without haredim, but it still won’t allow [gay marriage],” Livni lamented, adding that she would change the bill’s text from “man and woman” to “spouses.”

Livni called for Yesh Atid to cooperate with her Hatnua party to pass the bill, despite the Bayit Yehudi’s opposition.

Yesh Atid accepted the challenge, with a party spokesman saying that its ministers will support the legislation if it applies to same-sex couples.

“If the text of the bill is not changed and it does not allow homosexual couples to wed, Yesh Atid ministers will not support it,” the party stated.

Bills cannot be changed by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. Amendments can only be made in Knesset committees after the panel approves the bill and it passes a preliminary Knesset vote.

Meanwhile, MK Zevulun Kalfa (Bayit Yehudi) responded to Livni on Army Radio, saying that “the foundation of the Jewish world and the world in general is a family made up of both genders, so that children can be brought to the world.”

“It’s one thing to live your private life in such a way [as a gay person], but to give it a public seal of approval is another,” Kalfa added.

“We will be the first country that recognizes that kind of marriage,” he said. Actually, 14 countries on five continents recognize gay marriages. Denmark accepted same-sex partnerships as early as 1989, and the Netherlands became the first country to recognize gay marriage 12 years ago.

After negotiations between Hatnua, Yesh Atid and the Bayit Yehudi, the parties agreed to form a ministerial committee to deliberate on the issue of civil marriages – both gay and heterosexual.

A Bayit Yehudi source said the party would not necessarily have vetoed Sheetrit’s bill.

However, the source explained, the Bayit Yehudi “wants a consensus in the coalition, because this is a significant matter.”

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