Same-sex marriage in Israel

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Same-sex marriage is not legal in Israel. The Israeli Government has registered same-sex marriages performed abroad for some purposes since 2006. However, since the state has yet to legalize civil marriage in Israel, those who choose to get married must turn to one of the 15 religious marriage courts recognized by the state. As of 2017, none of these 15 religious courts permit same-sex marriage under their respective auspices. Consequently, Israelis who desire to have their same-sex marriage recognized by the Israeli Government must first wed outside Israel, and then register upon returning home.[1]


The religious authority for Jewish marriages is the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, and there are parallel authorities for Christians, Muslims and Druze, with a total of 15 religious courts. These regulate all marriages and divorces for their own communities. Currently, they all oppose same-sex marriages. If the views of one of these bodies were to change, however, it would be legal for members of that religious community to enter into same-sex marriages in Israel. Same-sex wedding ceremonies without legal significance can be conducted in Israel,[2] which, coupled with legally recognized foreign marriages, allows for both same-sex wedding ceremonies in Israel and legal recognition of same-sex marriages in Israel, on condition that the marriage certificates come from another country. The first unofficial municipal wedding took place in August 2009 following the Tel Aviv Pride Parade; five couples were married by Mayor Ron Huldai. The traditional verse for wedding ceremonies from Psalm 137, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither..." was used, but replacing Jerusalem with Tel Aviv, Israel's most gay-friendly city.[3][4]

Foreign marriages[edit]

Same-sex marriages performed abroad can be recorded at the Israeli Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration, according to a November 2006 High Court of Justice ruling which defined such records as strictly "for statistical purposes", thereby avoiding official recognition of same-sex marriages by the state. The case was filed by five male Israeli couples married in Canada.[5]

The ruling was strongly condemned by conservative politicians, including by United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, who called the ruling "the destruction of the family unit in the state of Israel".[6]

In December 2012, a Ramat Gan family court granted a same-sex married couple a legal divorce.[7] This was a first decision of its kind, setting a non-binding precedent.

In December 2016, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit issued an instruction to Israel's Interior Ministry to consider applications for citizenship by same-sex and opposite-sex couples equally under the same terms. The same-sex spouse of an Israeli will now be able to claim Israeli citizenship at the same speed as an opposite-sex spouse. Previously, same-sex couples had to wait up to seven years, and would generally only be granted permanent residency, rather than citizenship. The process was far quicker for opposite-sex couples.[8] The decision came in response to a lawsuit filed before the High Court of Justice by the Gay Fathers Association.

Unregistered cohabitation[edit]

Despite the fact that same-sex marriage (or opposite-sex civil marriage) is not legal in Israel, unmarried same-sex and opposite-sex couples have equal access to many of the rights of marriage in the form of unregistered cohabitation status, similar to common-law marriage.


In February 2009, Knesset member Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) introduced a civil marriage bill which included provision for same-sex marriages.[9] The bill was rejected in May 2012 in a 39 to 11 vote, with 70 not attending.[10][11]

In March 2010, the Knesset passed the Civil Union Law for Citizens with no Religious Affiliation, 2010. The law allows couples to form a civil union in Israel if they are both registered as officially not belonging to any religion. The couple, however, has to be an opposite-sex couple.[12] In October 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the law.[13]

In June 2013, Hatnuah MKs, led by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, introduced a bill that would provide for civil unions in Israel for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.[14] In October 2013, Yesh Atid MKs, led by Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, introduced a similar bill.[15][16] On 8 July 2015, the Knesset rejected the bill proposed by Yesh Atid and a similar one proposed by Meretz. The Knesset voted 39-50 to reject the two bills.[17] Hatnuah's bill was rejected by the Knesset on 22 February 2016 in a 40-47 vote.[18]

Signs supporting same-sex marriage in Israel

Legal challenges[edit]

In November 2015, the National LGBT Taskforce of Israel petitioned the Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriage in the country, arguing that the refusal of the rabbinical court to recognize same-sex marriage should not prevent civil courts from performing same-sex marriages. The court did not immediately rule against the validity of the petition.[19] In January 2017, at a public hearing and in its capacity as the High Court of Justice, two justices of the court implied the issue of civil and same-sex marriage is the responsibility of the Knesset, rather than the courts.[20] The court handed down its ruling on 31 August 2017, determining the issue was the responsibility of the Knesset, and not the judiciary.[21]

Political support[edit]

Political parties represented in the Knesset as of 2015 that have expressed support for same-sex marriage include the following:[22] Labor, Yesh Atid, Hatnuah, Meretz, Hadash and Kulanu.[23]

  • Likud: The official position has not been made clear. Individual Likud members, such as Moshe Ya'alon, Limor Livnat, Tzachi Hanegbi, Gila Gamliel and Miri Regev, have expressed support for gay rights,[24][25][26] and one of the party's members, Amir Ohana, is openly gay.[27] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not stated a position on same-sex marriage, though he has expressed support for LGBT rights.[28][29] On the electoral compass devised by Kieskompas for the 2015 election, Likud was categorized as "Tend to agree" with the statement "Same-sex marriage should be legalized".[30]
  • Yisrael Beytenu: Although the party is a vocal supporter of civil marriage in general, the official position on the subject of gay rights has not been made clear.[31][25] On the electoral compass devised by Kieskompas for the 2015 election, Yisrael Beytenu was categorized as "Tend to disagree" with the statement "Same-sex marriage should be legalized".[30]
  • The Jewish Home: The Jewish Home opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds.[31], but is in favor of extending certain rights, such as tax breaks, to same-sex couples.[31]
  • Shas: Although the party is consistently conservative on matters of religion and state, Shas MK Ya'akov Margi told Jewish Pluralism Watch, in response to its question on gay rights, that, "Israeli citizens' rights cannot be neglected, no matter what they think and how they behave in their personal lives."[25] In September 2017, Shas MK Yigal Guetta resigned from the Knesset under pressure from rabbis after attending the marriage of his gay nephew.[32]
  • United Torah Judaism: The party opposes same-sex marriage and LGBT rights more broadly.[33]

After U.S. President Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage in May 2012, opposition leader and Labor Party head Shelly Yachimovich, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon of the governing Likud party,[34][35] and many other ministers and parliament members of both the coalition and opposition announced that they agreed.[36][37] Former President Shimon Peres also expressed support for same-sex marriage in 2013.[38]

Following general elections in 2013, two same-sex marriage supporting parties entered the governing coalition: Yesh Atid and Hatnuah.

Meretz and Hadash have long had gay divisions. In 2009, Kadima, led by Tzipi Livni, became the first major party of the center to establish a gay division. Labor and Likud soon followed suit.[39][40][41] Yesh Atid also has a gay division.

In February 2013, Mayor of Tel Aviv Ron Huldai expressed his support of same-sex marriage. In May 2015, following Ireland's legalization of same-sex marriage through popular vote, Huldai reiterated his support, calling on the Government to act on the issue.[42]

Public opinion[edit]

According to a poll conducted in August 2009, 61% of Israelis supported equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, with 31% opposed.[43] Furthermore, 60% supported joint adoption by same-sex couples, with 34% opposed.[43]

A June 2016 poll showed a record high 76% supporting same-sex marriage, including 46% of Religious Zionists and 16% of Haredi Jews.[44]

A Rafi Smith Institute poll conducted in June 2017 asked Israelis: "Do you think same-sex couples should be permitted to marry or have civil unions in Israel?" 79%, a new record high, said they do support same-sex marriage or civil unions. When divided by political affiliation, 100% of Meretz and Zionist Union (Labor and Hatnuah) voters were in favour of recognizing same-sex unions, 94% of Yesh Atid voters were in support, 90% of Kulanu voters, 84% of Likud voters, 83% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters and 65% of The Jewish Home voters. A majority of Shas and United Torah Judaism voters were against recognizing same-sex unions. The margin of error was 4.5%.[45][46][47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Same-Sex Marriage in Tel Aviv". Tablet. 
  2. ^ "Same-Sex Marriage in Tel Aviv". Tablet. 
  3. ^ Kraft, Dina (June 16, 2009). "Can gay friendliness boost Israel's image?". JTA. 
  4. ^ Mitnick, Joshua (August 4, 2009). "Gay Israelis reeling after shooting attack". JTA. 
  5. ^ "Israeli Minister backs down on definition of marriage". Archived from the original on September 14, 2007. 
  6. ^ Gay Couples Bypassing Conservative Marriage Laws
  7. ^ "In precedent-setting ruling, court allows gay couple to untie the knot". 
  8. ^ Israel is to begin recognising same-sex marriage as an equal route to citizenship Pink News
  9. ^ Israeli Knesset To Consider Gay Marriage
  10. ^ Israeli parliament rejects gay and inter-faith civil marriage bill
  11. ^ Harkov, Lahav (16 May 2012). "Knesset rejects marriage equality bill". The Jerusalem Post. 
  12. ^ Civil Union Law for Citizens with no Religious Affiliation, 2010
  14. ^ Livni to sponsor groundbreaking Knesset bill allowing same-sex civil partnership
  15. ^ Rudoren, Jodi (29 October 2013). "Centrist Party in Israel Introduces Civil Union Measure". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ JODI RUDOREN (29 October 2013). "Centrist Party in Israel Introduces Civil Union Measure". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 January 2015. 
  17. ^ "Knesset shoots down civil union bills". The Jerusalem Post. 8 July 2015. 
  18. ^ Newman, Marissa (24 February 2016). "Day after marking LGBT rights, Knesset nixes 5 gender equality bills". The News of Israel. 
  19. ^ "NGO petitions High Court to allow same-sex marriage in Israel". The Jerusalem Post. 2 November 2015. 
  20. ^ "High Court hints it will pass same-sex marriage legalization question to Knesset". The Jerusalem Post. 11 January 2017. 
  21. ^ "Supreme Court rejects petition to recognize same-sex marriage". Jerusalem Post. 31 August 2017. 
  22. ^ 2013 Elections: Which parties support same-sex marriage?, Channel 2 News, January 8th, 2013 (in Hebrew)
  23. ^ Jonathan Beck (2015-02-02). "Kulanu's Oren announces support for same-sex marriage". The Times of Israel. 
  24. ^ Ilan Lior (2013-06-06). "Likud minister to speak for first time at Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade". Haaretz. 
  25. ^ a b c Judy Maltz (17 December 2014). "Where do Israeli lawmakers stand on matters of religion and state?". Haaretz. 
  26. ^ Ilan Lior, Promises, promises: Israeli parties woo LGBT voters, Haaretz, 11 March 2015
  27. ^ Likud's First Openly Gay Lawmaker to Be Sworn in Following Silvan Shalom's Resignation Haaretz, 21 December 2015
  28. ^ Ilan Lior and Haaretz (February 6, 2015). "Israeli defense minister tells LGBT crowd he backs marriages for all". Haaretz. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ a b "The 2015 Israeli Election Compass". Kieskompas. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  31. ^ a b c Lahav Harkov (2015-01-08). "Bennett: No secret Bayit Yehudi opposes gay marriage". The Jerusalem Post. 
  32. ^ Rabbis Force ultra-Orthodox Israeli Lawmaker to Resign After Attending Gay Nephew's Wedding
  33. ^ Israel Touts Gay Friendly Climate — but Religious Leaders Block Progress
  34. ^ Minister Ya'alon: "Same-sex Marriage should be allowed in Israel, Globes, May 14th, 2012 (in Hebrew)
  35. ^ Ya'alon supports recognition of same-sex marriage, Jerusalem Post, May 14th, 2012
  36. ^ Israeli Gay community congratulates Obama on his announcement, Ha'aretz, May 10th, 2012 (in Hebrew)
  37. ^ Obama gay marriage remarks spark debate among Israeli MKs, ministers, Ha'aretz, May 11th, 2012
  38. ^ President Peres supports same-sex marriage: "Everybody has the right to form a family", ynet, December 1st, 2013 (in Hebrew)
  39. ^ Mazal Mualem (June 10, 2013). "Israeli Politicians Address Gay Pride at Parade". Al-Monitor. 
  40. ^ Ophir Bar-Zohar (6 March 2012). "Israel's gay community making inroads into political mainstream". Haaretz. 
  41. ^ Gil Hoffman (2014-12-22). "Feiglin to meet with gay activists". 
  42. ^ Tel Aviv Mayor Huldai: Israel should follow Ireland’s lead on gay marriage, Jerusalem Post, 28.5.2015
  43. ^ a b "Three-in-Five Israelis Back Same-Sex Marriage". Angus Reid Public Opinion. Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  44. ^ Sharon, Jeremy (1 June 2016). "Poll: 76% of Jewish Israelis support same-sex marriage or civil unions". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 13 January 2017. 
  45. ^ Israeli support for gay marriage is at an all-time high
  46. ^ 79% of Israelis back gay marriage or civil unions