In honor of Family Day on Tuesday, the Ramat Gan municipality held five weddings for LGBTQ+ couples residing in the city and presented them with municipal civil marriage certificates.
Such certificates grant legal status equivalent to that of a married couple, but only on a municipal level - not a national level. They are available to anyone whose marriage falls under the "non-religious" category.
What is Family Day?
Family Day is an awareness day celebrated in Israel and in other countries around the world focusing on celebrating family in general rather than a particular parent like on Mother's Day or Father's Day.
In Israel, Family Day is celebrated in the winter, on the seventh day of the Jewish month of Shevat, the anniversary of the death of Henrietta Szold, who founded the Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization.
"Ramat Gan is a city for everyone and contains within it all kinds of families," said Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen. "We in Ramat Gan 100% believe in...tolerance and particularly on Family Day it is important to mention this. I call on other municipal leaders to adopt the [municipal civil marriage certificate] as a step toward same-sex relationships.
"We in Ramat Gan will continue to support the LGBTQ+ community with dozens of activities designed for them. Especially in these days of polarization and division, [we need to] remind [people] that the gay community is part of...the city of Ramat Gan. This is how it [always] was, this is how it will be."
Couples accompanied by friends and family arrived at the LGBTQ+ Center in Ramat Gan, located nearby the city hall, to a venue decorated with flowers and balloons for the upcoming nuptials. The municipality also employed a professional photographer and made sure that the songs played during each wedding were chosen by the couples getting married.
The issue of civil marriage in Israel
Israel does not have a uniform, state-sanctioned civil marriage system. Marriage is only performed through the rabbinic court, which only weds heterosexual halachically Jewish couples. Those who fall outside of the heterosexual and halachically Jewish categories must get married abroad if they wish to have state-recognized a marriage in Israel.
The establishment of civil marriage in Israel is important to the vast majority of voters for the coalition parties, according to an August 2022 poll conducted by the Smith Institute for the Hiddush Foundation for Religious Freedom and Equality.
The poll revealed that 95% of voters from Meretz, 94% from Labor, 76% from Israel Beytenu, 73% from Yesh Atid and 71% of Blue and White and New Hope voters think it's important that the politicians in their party push for civil marriage in Israel.
"This question is very important due to the intention expressed by some of the leaders of the coalition parties who are aware of the importance of freedom of marriage," Hiddush explained. "In their coalition agreements, they included a demand for an alternative to Rabbinate marriage, but they didn't follow through.
Utah Zoom marriages
In a July ruling, the regional court in Lod determined that remote civil marriage over Zoom would be recognized in Israel. The case in question is related to a couple in Israel who had a civil marriage ceremony based in Utah over Zoom. These video weddings became more common in Israel during the COVID-19 pandemic when traveling abroad for civil marriage became very difficult.
The Interior Ministry had registered several of these weddings until Aryeh Deri, the interior minister at the time, directed them to cease. In response, the court directed the registrar to accept the couple’s application and register them as married.
Maariv Online and Aaron Leibowitz contributed to this report.