No same-sex marriage in sight for Israel


Israel’s LGBT population has experienced vast improvements in recent decades, including a lift on the country’s sodomy ban in 1988, a non-discrimination law parallel to ENDA that passed in 1992, and the welcoming of openly gay military members since 1993. Still, the presence of progress is not indicative of an absence of struggle. Same-sex marriage remains illegal in Israel, and it seems that won’t be changing any time soon.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel reports that the LGBT population “still faces various forms of discrimination by government authorities and in the private sector.” And according to a recent survey from Israel Democracy, those words hold true. Approximately 30.5 percent of Israeli Jews and 46.2 percent of Israeli Arabs reported they would find it offensive to have a homosexual couple in their neighborhood.

While all foreign marriages are recognized by the state, including same-sex ones, marriage is an entirely religious institution in Israel. Therefore, a same-sex couple cannot simply pick up a marriage license at City Hall. Marriage has separate religious authorities between denominations, and the country does not have a civil marriage option.

In fact, religion controls most institutions in Israel, including education, family law, the opening of shops, and the running of public transportation on Shabbat—a day of rest on each seventh day of the week. 

Before achieving marriage equality in Israel, the conduct of Israeli politics would have to change. Yet because religious values are so deeply rooted in the government, there is a strong resistance to any alteration of the current political structure. Many fear modification could be perceived as an attempt of secularism. In fact, the only party wholly willing to attempt to break up religion and state, and to introduce the legalization of same-sex marriage, is Meretz—a leftwing, democratic party.

While measures are being taken to move forward toward same-sex marriage and civil unions, including a bill introduced by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, it is highly unlikely that any of them will succeed. Jewish Home—a right-wing, religious Zionist party—controls the Ministry of Religious Services and instated a clause within the current coalition agreement that states all governing parties must unanimously agree on any change in the balance of religion and state.

“There’s not a chance we’ll allow civil unions for gay couples,” said one senior party official.

Labor Party’s Shelly Yachimovich, leader of the opposition, also intends to present bill to legalize civil unions. However, without the support of the ministerial committee, it doesn’t stand a chance.

“Bills that aren’t backed by the ministerial committee on legislation almost never pass,” said Jerusalem Post reporter Lahav Harkov. 

Considering civil unions are even a struggle for straight couples, it is unlikely that the anti-gay ministerial controlled government will allow them for gay couples either.


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