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Israeli Justice Minister Backs Down On Definition Of Marriage
by 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 won.

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 in Israel.

For the past two years members of an extreme Orthodox sect, the haredi, have rioted in advance of gay pride celebrations in Jerusalem.  

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 married couples.

© 2007


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