Jewish Journal


June 28, 2011

Gay Marriage in Israel?  Two Developments


Following the legalization of gay marriage in New York State, Maariv columnist Shmuel Rosner reflected yesterday on the prospects for such a thing in Israel.  He refers (in Hebrew) to a seemingly obscure ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court two weeks ago that directed the Interior Ministry to recognize a proxy marriage considered valid in El Salvador.  As Rosner sees it, this may open the door to the legal validity in Israel for thousands of marriages performed outside the authority of the Rabbinate.  He thinks a secular coalition in the Knesset, bolstered by a shift in public opinion, could extend this to gay couples in a few years.

Today comes a report in Haaretz that suggests it may not be so easy.  The non-Jewish partner in gay couple from Baltimore was denied immigrant rights despite their Canadian marriage.  Some details:

The Law of Return stipulates: “A Jew’s rights and an immigrant’s rights ... are also imparted to the child, grandchild and partner of a Jew, except in the case of a Jew who willingly converted to another religion.”  Attorney Nicky Maor, director of the Legal Aid Center for Olim, says if the couple were a man and woman, there is no doubt they would both have received Israeli citizenship. “The only reason the Interior Ministry doesn’t know how to handle it is that they’re gay,” Maor said. “The Law of Return says ‘partner,’ not husband and wife. There is no definition preventing recognition of same-sex partners.”

Attorney Dan Yakir, of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, believes the High Court will grant Alvarez citizenship if asked to rule on the issue.  “It’s a question the courts haven’t dealt with yet,” he says, “whether ‘partner’ in the Law of Return also applies to a same-sex partner. In view of the court rulings that have equalized the rights of same-sex couples and in view of the constitutional right for equality, it is obvious that the Law of Return must be interpreted as applying to same-sex couples, and that means an immigrant’s partner must be given citizenship.”

Given the impenetrable administration of Israel’s Interior Ministry, this flap may say more about bureaucratic caution than about Israeli policy towards gays.  Time will tell.

Bob Goldfarb, the president of the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity in Los Angeles and Jerusalem, also blogs regularly for eJewishPhilanthropy.com.


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