The Supreme Court of Israel has ordered the government to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other countries.
This may appear to be unusual in that it requires a country to recognize a marriage that isn’t legal in that country. However, in this matter Israel already has established precedent and custom.
The rabbinate has a monopoly over Jewish marriage and divorce in Israel. Those citizens who wish for a civil marriage rather than a religious marriage cannot do so in Israel. So they go abroad, marry, and register the marriage with the nation. If, for example, a protestant Christian couple did not wish to go through Catholic Court, or a Muslim man wished to marry a Jewish woman, or even a Jewish couple did not want an Orthodox wedding, they would have to do so in another country.
In that context, this ruling does not seem bizarre. The court simply said that a distinction cannot be made in registering foreign weddings based on the sex or sexual orientation of the partners (ie. no special rights for heterosexuals).
Naturally, the ultra-Orthodox in Israel trotted out the extremist rhetoric to condemn the Court decision.
“We don’t have a Jewish state here. We have Sodom and Gomorrah here,” said Moshe Gafni, an ultra-Orthodox lawmaker, referring to two cities the Bible said was destroyed because their citizens were so sinful.
“I assume that every sane person in the State of Israel, possibly the entire Jewish world, is shocked, because the significance is… the destruction of the family unit in the State of Israel,” Gafni told Army Radio.
Gafni clearly is not aware of the sentiment in the American Jewish community (or perhaps he thinks Reform Jews and secular Jews are not sane). He also misses the irony that it was the rigid control of Orthodox Judaism on the marriage process within the state of Israel that created the loophole he so despises.
We should anticipate that anti-gay activists will soon be seeing signs of Armageddon in this new happening in the Holy Land. The chance to defame gay people and accuse them of attacking the religions of the world is too juicy for them to forego.
We will use this opportunity to see how the ex-gay ministries and their leaders respond. Will they recognize this as a political decision made in a foreign country, or will they see this as an opportunity to make false claims about gay men and women?