Israeli Justice Minister Backs Down On
Definition Of Marriage
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: September 10, 2007 - 7:00 pm ET
(Jerusalem) Despite intense pressure from
ultra-Orthodox religious parties Israel's Justice Minister has backed down on a
plan to define common-law marriage as between "a man
and a woman" in a new bill on inheritance rights.
Earlier this month it was disclosed that Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann
had revised the draft bill to specifically exclude gay and lesbian couples. (story)
The original draft was gender neutral and
approved by the cabinet. Friedman changed it following a meeting with the
ultra-Orthodox Shas party.
Marriage under Israeli law is the monopoly of
rabbis. There is no civil marriage in Israel. But cohabitating
opposite-sex couples are regarded as in a common-law marriage with many of the
rights of married couples.
Friedman's revision ignored the recommendations
of a government commission that recommended partners in same-sex relationships
have the same rights to inheritance as married couples when one partner dies
without a will.
The change in the wording of the bill angered
LGBT civil rights groups fighting for recognition in Israel.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel warned
that the revision would strip away rights gay and lesbian couples had already
Friedmann now has told the Association
that he "would not advance the proposed Inheritance Law, if the
matter would harm the property rights of same-sex couples."
He said will now try to work out a compromise
with the Shas party. In the meantime, other provisions of the bill will
proceed he said.
Same-sex couples have been slowly gaining
recognition in Israel. In 2005 Israel's Family Court for the first time
recognized a same-sex couple as the joint parents of their children. (story)
Last November the Supreme Court ordered the
government to register the marriages of same-sex couples married abroad in
countries that recognize such unions. (story)
The high court ruling only directs the government
to record the marriages for the purpose of collecting statistics. It does
not require that the marriage receive official recognition or that the couples
receive any of the rights of marriage.
Ultra-Orthodox groups have been gaining strength
For the past two years members of an extreme
Orthodox sect, the haredi, have rioted in advance of gay pride celebrations in
Nevertheless, a poll released in July found that
despite a vocal opposition to gays by orthodox religious groups the majority of
Israeli's believe same-sex couples should have rights similar to those of