Twelve organizations accuse government of violating basic human rights of hundreds of thousands of 'religion-less' Israelis by preventing them from getting married
The Forum for Free Marriage in Israel has petitioned the High Court of Justice against the Israeli government, which is preventing hundreds of thousands of "religion-less" Israelis from getting married, allegedly violating their basic human rights.
In the petition, filed Monday morning, the forum's 12 organizations claim that the State is legally obligated to allow civil marriage for those who cannot marry in a religious manner.
The petition, filed by Attorneys Ricky Shapira- Rosenberg and Einat Hurvitz, claims that the current situation is "completely unreasonable" and gravely violates constitutional basic rights.
"In terms of personal status, a resident's fate is determined according to the recognized religious faction he belongs to," the petition explains. "Anyone belonging to a religious faction with no authorized religious court in Israel – is basically considered as having no religious affiliation."
According to the forum, the law does not allow these religion-less citizens to act on their constitutional right to marry. They are joined by non-Orthodox converts and "mixed couples" of different religious factions.
The petitioners note that the "Spousal Covenant" enacted by the Knesset was meant to solve the problem, but that amendments to the law prevent it from fulfilling its purpose: It enables the registration of marriage only when both spouses lack religious affiliation, authorizes religious courts to determine who is "religion-less" and who isn't, and gives couples inferior rights compared to religious marriage.
In addition, there is no certainty regarding their status in foreign countries.
"The fact that the Knesset is evading its duty to enact a law which will solve the problem of thousands of citizens unable to fulfill their basic right to marry cannot serve as an excuse for the government not to use its authority and prevent the ongoing violation of human rights," the petition argues.
"(The government) must allow the State's citizen to fulfill their constitutional right to marry and guarantee their constitution rights to human dignity and liberty."
The petitioners note that the majority of the public objected to civil marriage in the past, but that public opinion has changed and now many support it – including Orthodox rabbis, like former Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron – so there should be no legal or other reasons to prevent its implementation.
"The existing legal arrangements don't contradict the establishment of a civil marriage system," the petitioners conclude. "The Rabbinical Courts Judgment Law does not apply to a couple in which one person is Jewish and the other has no religion and therefore does not prevent recognition of this marriage…
"The Israeli government must determine through its administrative authority under the Marriage and Divorce Ordinance (registration) that this marriage is valid as civil marriage.
"This arrangement may not be at the 'common route' of primary legislation, but the social reality in Israel and the constitutional status of the right to marry require taking other ways…
"In light of all this, the honorable court is asked to issue an order nisi as required and make it absolute after the State's acceptance."
The petitioners further argue that the existing situation in Israel contradicts international law and different conventions signed by the State of Israel.
The petition is signed by the Israel Religious Action Center, the Masorti Movement, the Hiddush association, Be Free Israel, Open House, Mavoi Satum, New Family, Na'amat, WIZO, Kolech and the Israel Women's Network.