MK Meir Sheetrit (Hatnuah) on Tuesday announced plans to propose a civil marriage bill to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.
The bill -- previously raised at the executive committee in June -- was torpedoed by Yesh Atid and never arrived in the Knesset. But on Tuesday, Yesh Atid submitted its own format for non-religious marriage recognition.
Sheetrit proposed the bill during the last Knesset (when he sat in the Kadima party), but it was shot down twice because of opposition among Yisrael Beytenu MKs.
"You cannot on the one hand stick another party's proposals in the ministerial committee and then offer a basically similar bill, making statements like that," Sheetrit said.
"Many civilians cannot get married according to religious marriages. In the current legal reality in Israel there are a great many citizens and residents -- especially among new immigrants and their children -- who do not have the ability to manifest, as a rule of thumb, this basic right. Regarding marriage, Israeli law looks to religious law and because of that every person who does not belong to one of the religious groups recognized in Israel is prevented from marrying in Israel. Additionally, couples belonging to different religious groups are prevented from marrying each other."
Sheetrit tried to allay the fears of religious opponents to civil marriage, saying his bill would have no impact on established customs, today the law.
"The 'civil union' law is not going to cause harm to religious marriage. The proposal is meant to change the legal situation and allow couples prevented from marrying each other in Israel and produce a family unit, granting them rights similar to married couples, but without affecting the exclusivity of personal law applicable to marriage and divorce in Israel," he said.
According to a statement from Sheetrit's office, the law would create equal rights for citizens who seek marriage outside the religious track, making a civil union equally lawful in all respects. The bill lays out the aspects of a "civil union," what the statement called the secular alternative to religiously officiated marriages, including who will oversee such ceremonies and how these couples register with the authorities.
Yesh Atid also announced it would float a civil union bill in the Knesset, which would similarly allow couples who do not fall within the rabbinate's criteria to marry. The bill was drawn up by MKs Ruth Calderon and Aliza Lavie.
According to Yesh Atid, couples wedded in civil unions would register under a special registry administered by the Justice Ministry.
In a rare show of contention between allies Habayit Hayehudi and Yesh Atid, Habayit Hayehudi announced it would oppose Yesh Atid's civil union bill, with one party MK saying the proposal could threaten the alliance the two parties have strategically held since the coalition was formed early this year.
"Civil union slaps a fat question mark on our alliance with Yesh Atid. This is a track that bypasses the rabbinate, seeking to undermine the exclusivity that has been granted to the religious institution, according to personal law applicable in Israel," said MK Yoni Chetboun.
He called Yesh Atid's civil union bill "dangerous," saying it was liable to bring about a "binational state of Jews and citizens. Israel has safeguarded its lineage for thousands of years. Bills such as this could split the nation in two."
Meanwhile, former Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Professor Aharon Barak weighs in on the issue in his upcoming book, saying the current state of affairs "violates the constitutional right to marry," and that prevent same-sex marriage similarly affects the "human dignity" of each partner.
"Anyone who is unable to marry according to religious law, and anyone who does not want to marry according to religious law for their own reasons, cannot marry in Israel. Civil marriage is not recognized in Israel. This state of affairs violates the constitutional right to marry … The present law does not only violate the constitutional derived right to marriage, but it also often violates the derived right to freedom of conscience and freedom from religion," he wrote.
Speaking about same-sex marriage, he wrote, “A law that prevents two members of the same gender from entering a relationship of couplehood is a violation of the human dignity of each partner.”