Whether you welcome them as an extension of equal rights to homosexuals who have
long suffered discrimination, or you oppose them as an attack on traditional
family values, same-sex marriages are apparently here to stay. Soon the winds of
change that have swept across America and much of Europe will arrive at our
This week, the US Supreme Court in a landmark case struck down
the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which had prevented the federal government
from recognizing same-sex marriages. More than anything, the ruling reflected
how deeply public opinion has come around to accepting same-sex marriages since
the law was approved during the Clinton administration.
A recent NBC
News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 53 percent of Americans favor same-sex
marriages, a record high for that survey. Support was higher among Democrats and
independents, but even among Republicans, 27% favored gay marriages.
sea change in Western attitudes is not restricted to the US. In April, the
French parliament gave final approval to same-sex marriage. With a population of
65 million, it is the most populous country to do so.
France followed in
the footsteps of eight other European countries that allow gay marriage: the
Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland and Denmark. In
the Americas, Canada, Argentina and Uruguay have all passed same-sex legislation
(as have 12 states in the US). South Africa recognizes them and the UK is
considering a similar bill, which is supported by the government there and seems
headed for passage this year.
The only recent setback was the sudden
delay of a vote on same-sex legislation in the state of Illinois, apparently due
to lack of support for the bill in the legislature.
The momentum is so
strong that it seems the controversial has been transformed into the
In many ways, Israel already provides more expansive rights to
the LGBT community than many Western countries.
In the US, for instance,
only now, after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, will
federal immigration authorities begin recognizing the non- American spouse in
same-sex marriages for the purpose of citizenship. (Many Israelis with dual US
citizenship will for the first time be able to immigrate to the US with their
non-American spouses if they so choose.) In contrast, in Israel, the Law of
Return – which provides automatic Israeli citizenship to Diaspora Jews who
choose to immigrate and to their non-Jewish spouses – has since 2011 been
interpreted as including a non-Jewish spouse in a same-sex
Since a 2006 High Court ruling, our immigration authorities
must record same-sex marriages performed abroad. In 2005 and in 2009, courts
recognized the right of same-sex couples to adopt. And gay couples enjoy the
same rights as straight ones for the purposes of inheritance, taxes and real
estate. The city of Tel Aviv recognizes unmarried couples – including gays and
lesbians – as family units and grants them discounts in daycare, the use of
swimming pools, sports facilities and other citysponsored activities.
marriages and divorces were not monopolized by religious authorities – Jewish,
Muslim, Christian and Druse – same-sex marriages would have been recognized long
ago. But since there is no provision even for straight civil marriages, and
since none of the religions authorized to perform marriages in Israel recognizes
same-sex unions, Israel has bucked the trend.
But this probably will not
last. In 2009, a Dialog/Haaretz poll found that 61% of Israelis supported civil
marriage for homosexuals. A poll conducted by Channel 2 before the January 2013
election found that Likud Beytenu, Labor, Yesh Atid, Hatnua, Meretz and Hadash
would support same-sex marriage if it came up for a vote in the Knesset.
Hatnua’s chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who is also justice minister, and MK Meir
Sheetrit have drafted legislation that would recognize homosexual marriages. The
only party in the coalition expected to oppose the bill is Bayit
Denying recognition to same-sex unions is fast becoming an
untenable position. In Israel, the struggle by secular groups to
institutionalize civil marriage might end up being won because of the tremendous
gains by the gay community in the recognition of same-sex marriages.