Knesset committee advances marriage bill


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Knesset committee has approved a bill that would allow couples wishing to marry to register with any rabbinate in the country.

The bill, which is sponsored by the Yisrael Beiteinu party, was approved Sunday by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation and advanced to a vote in the full Knesset. The measure must pass three readings before it becomes law.

Jewish couples now 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 non-religious couples, was given approval to register couples in the community of Shoham, where the head of the organization serves as chief rabbi.

Days earlier, Religious Services Minister Ya’akov Margi, a member of the haredi Orthodox Shas party, had told Tzohar that it would no longer be allowed to register couples with the ministry as married, effectively shutting down a service that has been marrying 3,000 couples a year free of charge.

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 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 that recognize their conversions.

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