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Tel Aviv offers civil partnerships to challenge Israeli government over same-sex marriage ban

Tel Aviv offers civil partnerships to challenge Israeli government over same-sex marriage ban

  • Move is pioneered by LGBT+ politician who changed attitudes in Israel by wedding his partner in Canada in 2005.
Israelis demand respect for LGBT+ families at a protest.

The city of Tel Aviv will allow same-sex couples to register civil partnerships and enjoy the same municipal benefits that married couples have.

The announcement is a direct challenge to the Israeli government which currently bans same-sex marriage.

Politicians have made five attempts to secure marriage equality in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, over the last eight years. But all have failed.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said: ‘In honor of gay Pride week, we decided to challenge the government and enable partnership registration based on a declaration.’

The couples registry will be open to any couple – including LGBT+ people, partners who have different religions and secular couples. They will make a declaration at city hall to state they are living together.

Tel Aviv already offers unmarried couples some benefits. And the newly registered partners will get discounts on property taxes and at municipal leisure and culture facilities. It will also benefit them when they register their children for preschools and community centers.

Making Tel Aviv a ‘beacon’ for marriage equality

LGBT+ city council member Etai Pinkas-Arad initiated the new scheme. He said he wants Tel Aviv to be ‘the pioneer, the beacon on the issue’.

Pinkas-Arad married his partner, Yoav Arad, in 2005 in Canada. The wedding highlighted Israel’s lack of marriage equality.

Moreover, in 2006, the Supreme Court ruled his marriage could be added to the population registry. Israel therefore now recognizes same-sex marriages from other countries.

Pinkas-Arad added: ‘The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality is now clearly saying that equality is a basic municipal value, and is adding a service of municipal partnership registration, which means that all the couples in the city are of equal value and have equal rights.’

Tel Aviv is arguably the most open-minded city in Israel, famous for its LGBT+ beach and Pride.

However, polling suggests the majority of Israelis support marriage equality. Surveys in both 2016 and 2017 both found a little over three-quarters of Israelis back same-sex marriages.

Despite this, the Israeli government has failed to back a change in law. They have also blocked same-sex couples from accessing surrogacy.

Meanwhile, highly vocal religious fundamentalists actively campaign against LGBT+ rights and partnerships.