Marriage is love.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Israel: Holy Union?

Newsweek Periscope

Nov. 28, 2005 issue - Gay marriage in the Holy Land? Five Israeli gay couples who got hitched in Canada under its 2003 gay-marriage law asked judges in Israel last week to order authorities to recognize their unions as binding. Israeli law is strict on matrimony, going so far as to bar unions between Jews and non-Jews. But authorities do recognize mixed couples who tie the knot abroad, a legal custom that the couples' lawyer now wants applied to gay unions.

The stakes are mainly political. Israel already has labor laws and court judgments extending benefits to same-sex partners. But in a country where religious parties usually wield enough power to make or break ruling coalitions, a liberal decision by the bench could trigger a political backlash from ultra-Orthodox members of Parliament. "We made the decision to marry knowing it would spark a battle in Israel," Yosi BenAri, a petitioner, told NEWSWEEK.

Israel's chief justice, Aharon Barak, has appointed an expanded panel to hear the case. Analysts believe the court, often a trailblazer on liberal issues, will side with the petitioners. But Avraham Ravitz, a rabbi and member of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's coalition, said Parliament would block gay-marriage advances through legislation. "We have a coalition agreement that says when the court makes decisions against religious principles, Parliament will correct them," he says.

—Dan Ephron

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.