Meretz MK: Pared down civil marriage bill 'political bluff'
Following debate on conversion law, another issue of religion and state addressed: civil marriage. After bill passes preliminary reading, Knesset committee discusses current version. Horowitz: Law discriminates against same-sex couples. MK Molla: Bill is civil marriage between Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu
The debate surrounding religion and state continues. The pared down civil marriage bill was put up for discussion Tuesday in the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee in preparation for its second and third readings and was authorized to advance through the process.
Following the storm on conversion that has yet to subside, the debate on civil marriage became equally as heated. "It is merely a political bluff," said MK Nitzan Horowitz from Meretz. The committee chairman, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) also came to the law's defense.
The bill is meant to afford citizens and permanent residents who are not recognized as having a religious affiliation the same rights as any other married couple.
"There is no benefit to the broader sectors who cannot marry in Israel," said Horowitz. "Even the supposed arrangement that it offers to people without a religion – not to non-Jews, to people without a religion – worsens their situation and further strengthens the religious institution. This is an equal standing for civil marriages."
Horowitz also complained that the bill stipulates that a "couple" is "a couple made up of a man and a woman," and claimed that this amounts to discrimination against same-sex couples.
MK Rotem said that he understands the reservations regarding the bill, but "the all-or-nothing method has not proved itself for 60 years."
Rotem continued, "The question is, let’s say that all of your reservations are passed. It is clear to you that someone will knock down the bill in the second and third readings. Unfortunately, we don't currently have a majority… we need to be smart. There are those who say that this bill doesn't do anything either. I disagree with them. Think about what we want to achieve – is this done by gradual steps or all or nothing?"
Rotem claimed that the bill was knocked down in the previous Knesset "because you had a civil marriage with Shas."
The bill, which passed in a preliminary reading, was drafted by Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman in the spirit of the coalition agreement with Yisrael Beiteinu on the basis of the bill put forth in the previous Knesset.
It addresses "religiously unaffiliated" people who will be able to register their marriage in a new body that has yet to be formed – the civil registrar. The registrar will be a person qualified to serve as a judge in a Magistrates' Court. The law will solve a problem for about 60,000 our of 300,000 immigrants, mostly from the former Soviet Union, who cannot marry because of doubts of their Jewishness.