Israeli LGBTQ Activists Petition High Court for Marriage Equality

Petitioners say High Court should have authority to approve civil court marriages.

A participant in Jerusalem's Gay Pride parade, Jerusalem, 2015.
Reuters

Four months after the United States Supreme Court passed a historic ruling legalizing gay marriage, an LGBTQ rights NGO presented Israel's High Court with a petition on Sunday calling for marriage equality throughout the country.

Prohibiting LGBTQ individuals to wed in Israel is discriminatory, claims The Aguda, an association of LGBTQ allies and activists, in the petition, adding that if Israel's rabbinical courts refuse to recognize such marriages, secular courts should.

According to Channel 10 News, this is the first petition of its kind. The court has not yet issued a ruling on it.

According to Jewish law, halakha, homosexuality is forbidden. In Israel, marriage is regulated by the Chief Rabbinate, a body governed by strict religious adherence. Lawyers for the petition argue that the High Court should have the authority to approve civil court marriages.

"The reality we live in is absurd," Oded Fried, the executive director of The National LGBTQ Task Force, told Israeli media. "On the one hand, the rabbinical courts do not recognize same-sex marriages, and on the other hand, are reluctant to give up the exclusive jurisdiction to recognize them,” he said. 

Chen Arieli and Imri Kalman, the joint-chairmen of The Aguda, called the petition "historic," and said: "The legal situation in which the rabbinical courts do not recognize their right to marry same-sex couples, while at the same time no other court is allowed to do so is unfair." 

The move follows the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of gay marriage in June, after a decades-long push by the LGBTQ community. The U.S. joined a list of Western countries, including England, Ireland, and Portugal, among many others, that have given LGBTQ people this right. 

Tel Aviv is well known for its vivid gay culture: from the club scene to the beaches, that have earned it seventh-place ranking in global LGBTQ happiness levels. In 2012, Tel Aviv was ranked the world's best LGBTQ travel destination.

However, there have been cases of violence perpetrated against LGBTQ people. At the Jerusalem gay pride parade in July, an ultra-Orthodox assailant, Yishai Schlissel, stabbed six marchers, one of whom, Shira Banki, died of her wounds. Ten years earlier, Schlissel carried out an attack at the Jerusalem Pride Parade.

While right-wing and Orthodox groups decried the stabbing, they urged the Jerusalem municipality to discontinue the parade.