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Marriage bill passes first Knesset reading

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A bill that would allow Israeli couples wishing to marry to register with any rabbinate in the country passed a preliminary Knesset reading.

The bill was approved 57 to 15, and was opposed by the religious Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, which voted against the legislation. The bill was initiated by the Yisrael Beiteinu party. It must still pass second and third readings in the Knesset.

Currently, Jewish couples must register with the rabbinate in the city or region of residence of one member of the couple.

The legislation comes more than a month after Tzohar, an organization of Modern Orthodox rabbis that performs alternative religious wedding ceremonies for nonreligious couples, was given approval to register couples in the community of Shoham, where the head of the organization serves as chief rabbi.

A Jewish couple must have a religious ceremony in Israel in order to be recognized as married. Many travel abroad to marry in secular ceremonies.

The new law also would be a boon to converts to Judaism, especially those who convert through the Israel Defense Forces, according to Haaretz, who will be able to register to marry with more moderate Orthodox rabbis who recognize their conversions.

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