The municipality of Tel Aviv has announced it will allow civil partnerships to be recognized based on a declaration rather than an actual marriage officially approved by the Israeli government.
“In honor of gay Pride week, we decided to challenge the government and enable partnership registration based on a declaration,” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said according to Haaretz.
The move means same-sex unions will now receive the same benefits from the municipality received by those couples in opposite-sex marriages recognized by the Israeli government, such as spousal benefits and discounts on property taxes.
Israeli law concerning marriage and civil partnership is complicated and discriminatory. Matrimonial law is, in effect, controlled by the country’s Chief Rabbinate and the Rabbinical Courts. Only marriages conducted under the guidance and auspices of the couple’s religion are recognized, meaning same-sex, interfaith, and non-religious unions conducted within Israel are not legally recognized. In a cruel irony, however, these same unions are recognized if conducted outside the country.
Tel Aviv will now allow these non-recognized unions to be entered into the municipality’s registry on declaration alone, thereby bypassing the strict requirements of matrimonial law and the ultimate approval of the Chief Rabbinate and the Rabbinical Courts.
“The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality is now clearly saying that equality is a basic municipal value, and is adding a service of municipal partnership registration, which means that all the couples in the city are of equal value and have equal rights,” city council member Etai Pinkas-Arad said.
The move by Tel Aviv officials comes against growing support for a more enlightened approach to marriage. Earlier this month the Smith Institute for Hiddush - Religious Freedom and Equality announced that a recent survey found 55 percent of the adult Jewish public believe in marriage equality and 23 percent believe same-sex couples should at least be able to register their partnerships with the government. Support was reflected across nearly all religious and political groups, with only Ultra-Orthodox Israelis and more fringe political groups in opposition to any form of recognition.
The hope is that Tel Aviv’s announcement and actions will spur the Israeli government to update its antiquated matrimonial laws and practices, and recognize marriage equality.
“If we manage to find a way to act on the matter, Tel Aviv will be the pioneer, the beacon on the issue,” Pinkas-Arad says.