Friday, August 31, 2007

Israeli Same-sex Couples May Be Denied Rights

Israeli Same-Sex Couples May Be Denied Rights
by Newscenter Staff

Posted: August 30 2007 - 5:00 pm ET

(Jerusalem) Under pressure from religious parties in the Knesset, Israel's Justice Minister has reportedly revised a draft law on inheritance law for cohabitating unmarried couples to specifically exclude gay and lesbian couples.

Haaretz newspaper reports that Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann made the change in the draft bill this week following a meeting with the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.

The original draft was gender neutral and approved by the cabinet.

The bill now defines a couple as "a man and a woman who lead a family life in a joint household," Haaretz reports.

Friedmann's revision ignores the recommendations of a government commission that recommended partners in same-sex relationships have the same rights to inheritance as married couples when one partner dies without a will.

The revised bill is expected to be introduced in the Knesset during the winter session which begins in November.

The changes have angered LGBT rights groups.

"Since the beginning of his miserable term, the Justice Minister has been committed to setting Israel back 30 years," said Mike Hamel, chair of the Israel GLBT Association.

A poll released last month found that despite a vocal opposition to gays by orthodox religious groups the majority of Israeli's believe same-sex couples should have rights similar to those of married couples.

The survey, by the German-based Friedrich Naumann Foundation, asked adult Israelis whether gay and lesbian couples should be afforded pension and survivorship rights.

Fifty-sex percent said it is either good or necessary. Twenty-three percent said it is a "very good" idea, 22 percent said it is "somewhat good" and 11 percent said it was "not good but necessary. Thirty-sex percent of those polled said it was "not good" with 9 percent unsure.

Same-sex couples have been slowly gaining recognition in Israel. In 2005 Israel's Family Court for the first time recognized a same-sex couple as the joint parents of their children. (story)

Last November the Supreme Court ordered the government to register the marriages of same-sex couples married abroad in countries that recognize such unions. (story)

The high court ruling only directs the government to record the marriages for the purpose of collecting statistics. It does not require that the marriage receive official recognition or that the couples receive any of the rights of marriage.

Marriage under Israeli law is the monopoly of rabbis. There is no civil marriage in Israel.

For the past two years members of an extreme Orthodox sect, the haredi, have rioted in advance of gay pride celebrations in Jerusalem.

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa. At least 18 other countries offer some form of legal recognition to same sex unions.

© 2007

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