Israel: Civil union legislation introduced to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples
The Yesh Atid Party in Israel on Tuesday introduced legislation to allow same-sex couples equal rights to straight couples.
The legislation aims to avoid the religious constrictions placed on marriage for straight couples, as well as to provide benefits to same-sex couples.
Israel does not currently allow any civil unions, and according a New York Times report, experts have estimated that over recent years, a quarter of Jewish couples have left Israel to marry, or cohabit without marrying.
The 15-page legislation, introduced in the Knesset on Tuesday, avoids using the word “marriage”, but would allow equal benefits for those entering the civil unions. The legislation specifies the unions as between “two human beings”, therefore making same-sex couples eligible.
“We have no argument or clash with the religious establishment, but we do need to provide a civic solution for every person, Jew or non-Jew, gay or straight,” Yair Lapid, Israel’s finance minister and chairman of Yesh Atid, said in a statement. “One of the fundamental human rights is the right to love in any way that one sees fit.”
Same-sex marriages are recognised in Israel, but must be conducted overseas as only the religious authorities: Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Druze can perform marriages, and none offer gay couples the chance to marry.
Like mixed faith straight couples, gay couples must marry in another country such as France or Canada, but once they do, they are recognised as a married couple in the Jewish state.
Supporters of the rabbinate’s current control over marriage, say it is important for the unity of the Jewish people. The legislation is opposed by the Jewish Home Party, part of the coalition government.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not offered a public position on the issue.