Israeli Gay Couple Granted Divorce While Same-Sex Marriage Remains Illegal

A court in Israel has granted divorce to a same-sex couple, even though such marriages are not recognized by law in the Jewish state.

While gay couples can host marriage ceremonies, legally there is no provision for same-sex marriage in Israel, Reuters reported. A court in Tel Aviv, however, determined that the marriage between former Israeli lawmaker Uzi Even, 72, and his partner of 23 years, Amit Kama, 52, "should be ended."

"The irony is that while this is the beginning of a civil revolution, it's based on divorce rather than marriage," Kama, a senior lecturer in communications in the Emek Yizrael College, shared with Reuters.

Gay rights activists are said to see this ruling as progress in a country largely governed by conservative values that are tied with religious beliefs about marriage, divorce and burials.

Kama and Even were married in 2004 in Toronto, Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal, which explains the Israeli court's decision to recognize their union enough to at least grant a divorce.

The couple at first encountered some trouble with the divorce petition when they could not meet Canada's residency requirements to have their marriage dissolved there, but rabbinical courts in charge of overseeing such proceedings allowed them to bypass those requirements.

"This is the first time in Israeli history a couple of Jews are obtaining a divorce issued by an authority other than a rabbinical court, and I think there is significant potential here for straight couples," said Zvi Triger, deputy dean of the Haim Striks law school near Tel Aviv .

The Daily Beast wrote that "the question now is whether this case can be applied to matters of marriage for all couples, regardless of religion or sexuality. Now that a precedent has been set, some legal experts are saying, it may open the door for a heterosexual couple to do the same."

The publication noted that religion plays a very large role in Israeli politics and the social sphere, and that for now rabbis will continue to have the final say in who gets permission to marry and who does not. The Interior Ministry also retains the right to veto the court's decision about the couple's divorce, meaning they can still face further obstacles before being legally separated.