The Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved Sunday a bill that would allow Jewish couples to register for marriage with any rabbinate bureau in the country, irrespective of where they live. The bill was approved despite pressure from religious parties, namely Shas.

In Israel today marriage registration is regional, with couples required to register at the rabbinical bureau that corresponds with the location listed in at least one of the couple's ID cards. There have been more and more cases of rabbinical authorities making it difficult for Jews and Jewish converts to get married, which has increased the pressure for nationwide marriage registration as an option, a model that already exists in the Orthodox Jewish sector.

The Tsohar organization has also helped an estimated 3,000 couples a year to marry in a Jewish ceremony that circumvents many of the hassles involved in going through the municipal rabbinate. Last month, however, Shas-affiliated religious services minister decided the Tzohar organization is no longer allowed to register couples as married, adding pressure to change the legislation.

If the law passes, it would make registering for marriage easier, particularly for converts. For instance, soldiers who converted through the Israel Defense Forces rabbinate - in a conversion procedure that has been questioned and rejected by some top religious authorities - would be able to register to be married by moderate rabbinical authorities who accept them as Jews.

Yisrael Beiteinu sponsored the law and intended on bringing it to a vote last Thursday, even though the cabinet has yet to reach a decision on the matter.

The explanatory notes to the law say that the requirement that a couple register at a branch of the rabbinate in the area in which they live used to be logical when the city rabbi knew the residents of his city. But today when the rabbis of large cities no longer know their constituents, and many no longer live at the addresses listed on their identity cards, it is just as appropriate for couples to register wherever they like - near their place of study, work, or home.