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Israel Supreme Court Tells Gov't To Register Gay Marriages Performed Abroad
by The Associated Press

Posted: November 21, 2006  8:00 am ET 

(Jerusalem) In an unprecedented ruling, Israel's Supreme Court ordered the government on Tuesday to recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad.

The lone dissenter on the seven-judge panel was an observant Jew, highlighting the controversy the decision touches off among ultra-Orthodox Jews and other deeply conservative groups in Israel.

Efforts by Israel's gay community to win approval for same-sex marriage, a key issue in North America and Europe, face a major obstacle because Israel's rabbinate has a monopoly over Jewish marriage and divorce.

``We don't have a Jewish state here. We have Sodom and Gomorrah here,'' said Moshe Gafni, an ultra-Orthodox legislator, referring to two cities the Bible said was destroyed because their citizens were so sinful.

``I assume that every sane person in the state of Israel, possibly the entire Jewish world, is shocked, because the significance is ... the destruction of the family unit in the state of Israel,'' Gafni told Israel's Army Radio.

Gafni said he would consider presenting a bill to parliament that would bypass Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling and make recognition of all same-sex marriages illegal.

Yossi Ben-Ari, who petitioned the court along with his partner, Loren Shuman, brushed off Gafni's comments as a continuation of the ultra-Orthodox ``frenzy'' against Israel's gay and lesbian community.

``This is only the beginning of the battle. The courts here are very progressive ... but the battle is for the face of society,'' Ben-Ari told Israel's Army Radio. ``The battle for our rights doesn't end here, it is still very long.''

Animosity toward gays and lesbians is one of the few issues that unites Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land. They have jointly come out against gay parades in the city, and are all likely to oppose the Supreme Court ruling.

Earlier this month, a planned gay parade in Jerusalem set off days of violence in the city's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. Protesters burned trash bins and hurled stones at police, demanding the parade be cancelled or moved to secular Tel Aviv.

In the end, Jerusalem's gay community moved the event to a stadium on a university campus in Jerusalem, quelling the threats of violence and allowing 4,000 people to celebrate peacefully.

Last year, an ultra-Orthodox man stabbed and wounded three participants at Jerusalem's gay parade.

Still, many cities in Israel have thriving gay scenes. And the Israeli military, an influential and respected institution, is banned from discriminating against gays. Lesbians and gays are drafted into the army for mandatory service and are given the opportunity to progress up the ranks. 2006


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