Precedent: For the first time in Israel,
homosexual couples will be registered as married in the population registry, High Court judges ruled Tuesday morning after accepting a petition filed by gay couples married abroad.
The petition was approved by six judges. Only Justice Elyakim Rubinstein opposed.
Justice Aharon Barak, who wrote the ruling, explained that the court is not interfering in decisions made by different countries regarding the recognition of homosexual couples.
"We are ruling that as part of the population registry's statistic-registration status, and in light of the registry clerk's duty to collect statistic material in order to manage the registry, the registry clerk must register in the population registry what is revealed in the public document submitted to him by the petitioners, according to which the petitioners are married.
"We are not ruling that marriage of people of the same sex is recognized in Israel; we are not recognizing a new status of such marriage; we are not expressing any position regarding the recognition of same-sex marriage conducted outside Israel."
Justice Barak relied on a previous court ruling from the 1960s, which followed an incident in which a Jew and a non-Jew married in a civil wedding in Cyrpus, and when they asked to register at the population registry they were not recognized as a married couple.
Justice Yoel Zussman had written in the ruling: "It is obvious that the registrations clerk's duty, according to the population registry order, is nothing more than the duty of collecting statistic material in order to manage the resident registry, and he holds no judicial authority."
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish supported Barak's ruling.
"A year-long judicial tradition created and based the distinction in our system between the population registry, its duty and the boundaries of its authority, and the most difficult issues of determining personal status.
"The fact that from the petitioners' point of view the registry and the statement included in it is definitely important, does not lessen the significant distinction created in the laws which came out from this court between the registry issue and the personal status issue.
"This approach of our ruling created a framework which leaves the most complicated legal questions undecided, while the question of social and moral recognition is left to the Knesset as a legislative body."
Justice Rubinstein, the only one who opposed the decision, explained his stance: "I believe that granting the economic-social rights for homosexual couples, which bears some human and legal decency, is a 'legal pattern' similar to marriage registration. There is a line separating them, and the lawmaker must refer to incidents in which it is crossed.
"The line is a symbol, the same moral decision, which justifies that the lawmaker in Israel pays attention to it. And the registration is, at the end of the day, an official seal of the kingdom for the creation of a family cell, which is only recognized in a small minority of the world's countries. Therefore, if my opinion had been heard, we would have not accepted the petitions."
The petitioners demanded that the Interior Ministry's population registry register same-sex couples married abroad as married couples after presenting a verified marriage certificate from the country they were married in.
The petitions, filed by Attorney Dan Yakir, the legal advisor of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Yonatan Berman, was filed on behalf of two male couples married in Canada, and the State refused to change their personal status in the population registry from single to married.
The petitioners noted that changing the couples' registration will not suffice, but that the court must create a precedent by ruling that the State must register other same-sex couples who presented a marriage certificate as married.
In the petition it was claimed that "the State of Israel is preventing these couples from getting married in their country surrounded by all their loved ones, family members, friends and acquaintances, and forces them to move far across many continents. This critical injury of their basic rights is enough, and the registrar must not be allowed to present an obstacle against the registration of their marriage in Israel.
The State responded to the appeal
by saying that there is no room for registering same-sex marriage conducted in a foreign country.
This stance is based on two levels of considerations: The first, the lack of recognition of a one-sided family cell and the scope of the registrar's judgment. On the second level, the State claimed that laws applying to recognition of marriage conducted in foreign countries are not fitting in a social institution which is not recognized in Israel.
Ilan Marciano contributed to the report