Israel “bursts open” for gay marriage

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Israel’s orthodox community has only just recovered from a gay pride rally being held in Jerusalem, but now they must prepare themselves for gay marriage, after the High Court of Justice backed the unions this morning.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) submitted a petition on behalf of five gay couples in March against the Ministry of the Interior’s Population Registrar, demanding the registration of same-sex couples who marry outside of Israel.

Six judges against one ruled that the marriages, which were obtained in Canada, should be recognised in Israel, prompting anger from ministers and religious groups.

The minister in charge over religious affairs, Yitzhak Cohen, told Israeli paper Haaretz: “The High Court has sunken in the gates of defilement and has torn out the last mezuzah from its doors.

“The dam that protected the Jewish state has been burst open under the auspices of the High Court, asking for an anti-Jewish deluge clad in black capes.”

Itay Pinkas, a prominent member of the gay community who married his partner in Canada called it an historical day, “This is an historical day for the [gay] community and for democracy. This is our real pride parade. We will keep battling for full equality in other areas.”

The petitions not only relate to the couple’s right to request the registration of their personal details, but they also demand that the Population Registrar register the marriages of other same-sex couples who hold valid marriage certificates.

The first couple in the case is Yossi Ben-Ari, 51, and Laurent Shuman, 41. They met in 1985, and after a period of two years moved in together. They have since lived together as a family unit and run a joint household.

The second couple consists of Joseph Bar Lev, 38, and Yaron Lahav, 28. Both couples were legally married in Toronto in 2003 with fully validated marriage certificates that were authorised by the Israeli Counsel in Toronto.

When ACRI submitted a formal application to the Population Registrar on behalf of the first couple to request that their registered status be changed from “single” to “married”, the couple encountered numerous and lengthy delays, until they were finally notified that “marriages of this kind (the marriage of same-sex couples) are not considered legally valid by the State of Israel, and thus cannot be recorded in the registry as requested”.

The group then made a similar appeal on behalf of the second couple, they were provided with the following reply with unusual alacrity, “as you well know no changes in personal status are registered for same-sex couples in Israel”.

Attorney Dan Yakir said in the petition, that the refusal of the Population Registrar to change the personal details of the petitioners contravenes the legal obligation of a registration clerk to register changes in the personal status of anyone who presents them with validated certification of these changes.

He added that the Population Registrar has no authority to decide on the validity of the marriage, and its response to the petitioners was nothing more than an attempt by the registrar to assume judicial authority that was never legally transferred to them.

The petition stated that “Just as it is unacceptable to permit discrimination on the basis of an individual’s inclusion in an ethnic or national grouping that is defined by racist perceptions prevalent in our society; and just as there can be no acceptance of discrimination against women that is based on pervasive patriarchal attitudes; there can also be no tolerance of discrimination against same-sex couples resulting from societal homophobia.”

The ruling comes after a British lesbian couple’s Canadian marriage was ignored by the High Court in London earlier this year. An Irish couple is current awaiting the conclusion of a similar case in Dublin.