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(photo credit: Channel 2)
Dan Yakir, the legal adviser for The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), accused Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann on Sunday of "manifestly lying" about the consequences for homosexual couples following Friedmann's decision to define a couple as a man and a woman in new inheritance legislation.
The legislation, which is part of the Civil Law Code currently being prepared by the Justice Ministry, will replace the old Inheritance Law passed in 1965.
According to the original law, if a spouse who owned property died without leaving a will, the property would automatically go to his or her partner without need of any legal procedures. The law explicitly defined a couple as consisting of a man and a woman.
In early December 2004, the Nazareth District Court ruled that the estate of a homosexual man who died without leaving a will would automatically go to his partner in accordance with the Inheritance Law, despite the legal definition of the term "couple."
"There is no difference between a same-sex couple and a heterosexual couple as far as joint living is concerned," the court ruled.
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz declared that he would not appeal the decision. In fact, he made it clear that when it came to financial matters, he believed homosexual couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples.
The state's new position influenced a public committee headed by retired Supreme Court justice Ya'acov Turkel, which was in charge of preparing legislation dealing with property matters, including inheritance, for the Civil Law Code. According to the draft of the bill prepared by the committee, the definition of the term "couple" did not specify that it meant a man and a woman.
Recently, however, Friedmann changed the meaning of the term "couple" back to its 1965 definition when he submitted Turkel's bill to the Ministerial Law Committee.
According to reports, he made the change because of political pressure from Shas. But according to Yakir, Friedmann's media adviser, Tzahi Moshe, had tried to make it sound as if the change were insignificant.
Yakir quoted Moshe as saying, "In keeping with the instructions of the codification [of civil law,] the definition [of the term couple] is returning to what it was in the 1965 law. The possibilities of interpreting the law as they have existed until now, continue to remain the same."
In other words, a court could still interpret the new law just as the Nazareth District Court interpreted the 1965 law.
But Yakir accused Friedmann of lying. He said it would be difficult, if not impossible, to interpret the new inheritance law as the Nazareth court had interpreted the outgoing one in 2004.
Before, Yakir contended, the judges could rule that the law had been written 40 years earlier, when same-sex couples were rare, and therefore the legislator had not thought of including them in the legislation. However, the same could not be said if the legislation defining a couple as a man and a woman were reimplemented now, when the existence of homosexual couples was well known.