Merin on Religious Marriage in Israel

Yuval Merin (COMAS) has posted a new article on SSRN, Recognizing Foreign Marriages of Couples Ineligible for Religious Marriage in Israel–A New Perspective of Choice of Law and Public Policy (in Hebrew). The abstract follows.

The Israeli laws of marriage and divorce are governed exclusively by religious law. Several groups of the Israeli population are completely excluded from the institution of marriage due to a long list of religious restrictions and impediments. Couples ineligible for religious marriage include persons “disqualified for religious marriage”; interfaith couples; persons without a recognized religion; and same-sex couples.

Such couples can only marry abroad. Upon their return to Israel, they may register as “married” in the Population Registry and may enjoy a few of the rights associated with the institution, but their marriages are unrecognized for most other purposes. Since the field of marriage recognition is not regulated under Israeli positive law, the courts will have to decide whether to apply the English personal law system or the American principle of lex loci celebrationis. A critical comparison between the two competing systems reveals that the American rule is preferable since it best promotes the policy objectives which choice of law rules in the field of marriage recognition should seek to achieve. It is also preferable since it best corresponds to the unique social and legal conditions prevalent in the State of Israel. Foreign marriages performed by Israeli couples ineligible for religious marriage (valid in the place of celebration) should thus be recognized, subject to the public policy exception. Religious norms, which are exclusively applied in matters of marriage and divorce within Israel, should not be considered in the framing of the public policy exception, which should be interpreted narrowly, as protecting only democratic, secular, rational and liberal values. Thus, the foreign marriages of couples who are single, adult, and unrelated to one another, and whose marriage in Israel is prohibited due to purely religious restrictions, should be fully recognized under Israeli private international law.

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