Who does the ‘Partnership Covenant Law’ help, if anyone?

The law may serve at best 30,000 people without a recognized religion, but does not provide a response to more than 300,000 people whose Jewish status is in doubt. The proof lies in the fact that law after the law went into effect, there has been only one application for a Partnership Covenant union!

By: Shiri Lerner

January 31, 2011

Translated from Yediot Ahronot
For those wondering how, if at all, citizens are impacted by the ‘Partnership Covenant Law’, answers can be found in the new Family Rights Guide to Couplehood and Common-Law Marriage ID Cards disseminated New Family organization. The guide is 32 pages and in addition to the ‘Partnership Covenant Law’, deals extensively with questions like: how pre-nuptial agreements can be a tool of building relationships and a not a potential divorce agreement; how to will property to common-law partners; common-law partners pension rights; how Common-Law Marriage ID’s became a solution for civil unions in Israel; same-sex couplehood; inheritance rights; and many other issues of economic, social, pension and legal rights.

On the ‘Partnership Covenant Law’, from the Guide:
The ‘Partnership Covenant Law’ was originally intended to be a solution for couples who can’t marry in Israel.  But with the astonishing changes in the final law in late 2010, the law fails to provide a solution for those who don’t want to or can’t marry through the Rabbinate and does not serve as a true civil alternative to Orthodox religious marriage in Israel.

Anyone reading the text of the law may be confused into thinking that the law is ultra -liberal and finally regulates civil marriage in Israel, but reading the fine print of the law reveals a starkly different picture.

The law serves a negligible minority of the population.  Statistics show that the law may serve at best 30,000 people in Israel certified by the religious courts as ‘religion-less’ (assuming that all certified religion-less people wish to marry only one another). The law fails to provide a solution for more than 300,000 people whose Jewish status is in doubt.

Not only does the law not produce a secular alternative to marriage in the religious establishment, it maintains the Orthodox religious monopoly over marriage and divorce in Israel and strengthens and perpetuates religious coercion. In the wake of the law, Jews who want to marry religion-less spouses will encounter more difficulties than before the law was legislated, because of the Rabbinate’s reinforced grip over marriage and divorce.

Likewise, the ‘Partnership Covenant’ is not really civil marriage. The ‘Partnership Covenant’ does not serve those who choose on principle not to have their union certified by Orthodox religious establishment, and wish simply to be united in a secular, liberal sprit. It’s no accident that the law refrains from using the language of ‘civil marriage’, but the more flexible and less obligatory term ‘Partnership Covenant’.

Only two spouses who are both certified by the religious courts as not meeting the religious definition of any faith recognized in Israel are entitled to register the relationship under this Law. In Israel, there are not many people who fit these requirements.

Couples that are registered as religion-less can apply to the appointed Registrar. Both spouses will need to provide documentation of their birth and citizenship. The Registrar will refer their request to the heads of the religious courts in Israel, who will review them and give an opinion on their eligibility for the law. In practice, the law that is supposed to provide a civil marriage alternative for non-Jewish immigrants in fact creates a new path in which non-Jews will have to be certified by the Rabbinate or other religious institution as having no recognized faith.  Absurdly, the law forces those who have no religion to have their religious status defined by religious institutions. The bureaucratic procedure is invasive, intrusive and embarrassing. There is no doubt that the law expands the scope of religious coercion over the religion-less citizens in Israel.

Who is not included in ‘Partnership Covenant Law’

  • Jewish, Christian or Muslim couples and members of religions recognized in Israel seeking a recognized civil marriage.
  • Interfaith marriages in Israel between people of different religions can not exist. This is because there is ‘nothing in this law to challenge the unique authority of the religious court to decide matters of marriage and divorce.’
  • Common-Law spouses who want to register as partners.
  • Same-sex couples are not mentioned in the law.

Anyone who reads the law is likely to misunderstand the intent of the legislator, because the language of the law actually refers to the creation of a civil option with equal rights and obligations parallel to religious marriage. Meaning, this law should have provided a way for a man and woman to create a legally recognized union that does not constitute religious marriage. Yet, like any legal document, you should read the law’s fine print.

On New Family’s Guides:  Addressing Every Aspect of Family

The guide is part of a series of guides disseminated by New Family Organization, founded by Advocate Irit Rosenblum.  Previous guides include: ‘New Beginnings-Guide to Second Marriages and Partnerships’, ‘Parenthood in a Right’, ‘All You Need to Know about Agreements in the Family, Family, Property and Capital Rights’, ‘Inheritance and Wills in Financial Matters, Assets and Physical Issues’ and more. New Family distributed more than 120,000 copies of each of the guides.

You can get the free guides through our website at  http://www.newfamily.org.il/contact , by e-mail to: newfamily@newfamily.org.il or by phone at 03 566 0504.

Source: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4021744,00.html

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