Israeli high court recognizes same-sex marriages

A gay Israeli couple married in Canada won the legal battle to have the union recognized in Israel. Now the high court of Israel wants the government to recognize same-sex marriages.

A gay Israeli couple who married in Canada has won a legal battle to have the union recognized in Israel.

In a precedent-setting ruling Tuesday, Israel's High Court of Justice decided that the couple, as well asfour others weddedabroad,should be allowedto register their marriages, and have the same rights as heterosexual couples marrying out of country in civil ceremonies.

The court has ordered the government to adopt its stand.

"We're delighted but the struggle is not over," Yossi Ben-Ari said in the Jerusalem Post.

Ben-Ariand his partner of 21 years, Laurent Schuman, wed in Canada after same-sex marriage became legalin 2003. The couple then joined four others in Israel to petition the court for the right to register their unions in the population registry.

The court ruled 6-1 in their favour.

Moshe Negbi, a legal expert, said the court's decision is mostly symbolic because gay couples in Israel already have many of the same rights as heterosexual couples. The major difference now is they can get the same tax breaks as other married couples and can adopt children.

Israeli law stipulates that people must be married to adopt.

The ruling did not escape controversy. Israel's minister in charge of religious affairs spoke out against the court.

"The high court has sunken in the gates of defilement and has torn out the last mezuzah from its doors," Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) told Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service.

"The dam that protected the Jewish state has been burst open under the auspices of the high court asking for an anti-Jewish deluge clad in black capes."

Civil marriages of any kind cannot be performed in Israel because of the rabbinate's monopoly on family law. However, couples marrying in civil ceremonies abroad can register their unionsin Israel and share the same rights as other married couples.

With files from the Associated Press