The judges at Israel's
rabbinical courts have seen many divorce cases in their lives, but none of them were prepared for what happened last week, when a gay couple arrived at the Tel Aviv Rabbinate and filed for divorce.
The two are Prof. Uzi Even, the first openly gay Knesset member, and Dr. Amit Kama. They had a civil marriage ceremony in Canada eight years ago, becoming the first Jewish Israeli male couple to marry each other.
When they returned to Israel, the Interior Ministry refused to register their marriage, forcing them to petition the High Court of Justice, which forced the Interior Ministry in 2006 to acknowledge the Canadian marriage certificate.
Following the historic decision, the Interior Ministry registered the marriages of additional male couples married abroad. But the couple which paved the way experienced marital problems and split three years ago.
After the separation, Prof. Uzi Even met another man and the two decided to get married abroad. But before being able to remarry, he must get a divorce – a procedure which appears to be quite difficult for a gay couple in the Jewish state.
According to Israeli law, the rabbinical court is the only body authorized to annul the marriage of Jewish citizens in Israel. However, the rabbinical court has never recognized same-sex marriages.
Even and Kama cannot divorce in Canada either, as Canadian citizens are the only ones allowed to file for divorce there.
The two approached Attorney Judith Meisels to help them solve this legal entanglement. They drafted a separation agreement that was approved by the Ramat Gan Family Court, which even recommended that the Interior Ministry approve the divorce.
But the Interior Ministry refused to cancel Even and Kama's marriage registration without an official divorce ruling.
Having no other choice, the couple decided to seek the help of the rabbinical court in order to end the marriage. The court's secretaries were extremely surprised by the appeal, as it was the first time they were forced to deal with such a situation.
"The rights to get married and divorced are basic rights, and the State must find a way to allow every person to act on that right," said Attorney Meisels.