After 19 years of living together, former Meretz MK Prof. Uzi Even and his partner Dr. Amit Kamah, were married last Friday at Toronto city hall. On the same occasion, they served as witnesses for the marriage of their friends, Yoav Kinias and Doron Azouri, a Givatayim couple who have lived together for eight years.

Now back in Israel, the two couples are gearing up for a struggle to win recognition as married (homosexual) couples from the Israeli Interior Ministry. On October 20, they are planning to hold a large wedding celebration in Tel Aviv, and then to undertake the campaign to win that recognition. "This wedding gives us recognition, so we can finally invite family and friends to celebrate with us," said Even.

Homosexual marriage is legal in Canada so, if necessary, the couples plan to petition the High Court of Justice to force the court to recognize the discrimination in the refusal of the Interior Ministry to register the legally binding Canadian marriage; and they want the court to note that not honoring the marriage would violate international treaties to which Israel is a signatory.

Interior Minister Avraham Poraz's office said no application for recognition of the marriage has yet been submitted but if it is up to Poraz, he would be happy to recognize the marriage. If the request comes in, said the office, Poraz will seek the counsel of the ministry's legal adviser. Even said he met with Poraz before the trip to Canada, and that as the minister, Poraz has the authority to recognize the marriage. "This will be a test of Poraz's integrity."

Even, who was the first openly gay MK, said he expects a long legal battle, "but somebody had to be first."

Kamah said that in addition to the ideological side of the campaign, there are practical aspects of marriage that include advantages for married couples denied to single people, such as the right to adopt and recognition by insurance companies of benefits for spouses.

"This is not merely symbolic," said Kinias. "It has a concrete significance for us. Just on the matter of a spouse being able to sign in case of medical procedures, it is important for us."

Despite the relatively tolerant attitude toward the homosexual community in Israel, the two couples say that when it comes to legislation, Israel has made no progress whatsoever when compared to Western nations. Kinias commented that, "Everyone comes along to the Gay Pride Parades, but when it comes to the official, legislative level, there has been no progress. We expected Shinui to forge the changes, but the disappointment has been great."

Even says that another gay couple also seeking official recognition of their union has been told that the Interior Ministry is waiting for the High Court to rule on another case concerning a lesbian couple who is seeking to register a child they adopted in the U.S.