The Israeli Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the Interior Ministry must register as married couples who wed in online civil ceremonies through the US state of Utah, a controversial ruling that infuriated the religious establishment.
For the first time, Israelis would have the option to get married in a legitimate civil ceremony without leaving the country.
Since the Population and Immigration Authority’s sole responsibility is to record legally valid marriage certificates and not to engage in complicated legal analysis, the court determined that the authority had no legal authority to refuse to register such marriages.
Because Israeli couples could not go abroad for civil ceremonies, which are unavailable in Utah, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they started using Utah’s online civil marriage services in 2020.
Some couples filed court petitions challenging the decision after former interior minister Aryeh Deri instructed the Population and Immigration Authority to halt the registration of such weddings.
Deri’s successor Ayelet Shaked supported the decision.
Since 2020, 1,200 couples have wed via Utah’s online civil marriages.
Avigdor Liberman, the leader of Yisrael Beytenu, applauds the decision and notes that it was “wonderful that the Supreme Court stood up to the religious compulsion of Deri and his allies seeking to take us to a state of religious law.”
Moshe Arbel, a Shas MK, criticized the ruling, saying it showed the need to advance the government’s radical plan for judicial reform.
“The Supreme Court’s recognition of civil unions consummated through the Zoom app on Purim is a sad joke at the expense of all of Israel’s religious and traditional citizens, and it expresses more than anything the desire to advance the values of a cosmopolitan democracy and erase the Jewish identity of the state,” said Arbel.