Utah Online Marriages

Israel’s Supreme Court rejected the state's appeal regarding "Utah Online Marriages". The Population Authority is obligated to register as married all couples who wed in this manner.

A wedding performed via videoconferenceA wedding performed via videoconference


The Population Authority is obligated to register as married all couples who wed in this manner.

Today (Tuesday, March 7th) the Supreme Court rejected the state's appeal against the ruling given on registration of "Utah marriages" by the Jerusalem Administrative Court, which held that the Population Authority and the Ministry of the Interior must register as married any couple who get married using the online “Utah Marriage” platform. The court accepted the position of Hiddush that the consistent rulings of the Supreme Court since the 1960s regarding overseas civil marriages should be applied to Utah marriages as well. Namely, in all cases in which the state tried to refuse to register civil marriages of Israelis abroad, the court ordered the authorities to do so. The significance of the decision is that the Population Authority must register couples who married abroad online too, even if they are physically present in Israel during the ceremony. The State's appeal was filed after the Administrative Court ruled in favor of the NGO Hiddush - for Freedom of Religion and Equality, in a petition it brought together with eight couples who were wed via "Zoom" by the Utah County Marriage Authorities.

"Utah marriages" are marriages that are conducted via video conferencing by an authorized marriage officiantin the state of Utah, USA, and have already enabled thousands of couples from all over the world, including already more than 600 couples from Israel, to get married from their place of residence without having to physically travel to Utah. Israel only recognizes marriage conducted within its borders according to religious law. Hiddush estimates that there are approximately 700,000 citizens who cannot marry at all in Israel because of religious restrictions. Among them are approximately half a million immigrants from the FSU who came under the Law of Return but are not considered Jewish by the Orthodox Rabbinate, same-sex couples, Reform and Conservative converts, and couples whose marriage is forbidden according to Halacha (Jewish law), such as a Cohen and a divorcee, or a Cohen and a convert.) All of these, and of course couples who refuse to marry in the Orthodox Rabbinate for reasons of conscience, are now able to marry through Utah County’s online marriage platform without leaving the country.

Rabbi Uri Regev, CEO of the NGO Hiddush for Freedom of Religion and Equality, reacted to the Supreme Court ruling, saying: "We welcome the ruling of the Supreme Court, which opens an additional avenue for marriage for Israelis.” He added that "the State of Israel is the only Western democracy in the world that denies its citizens the freedom of marriage, due to the demands of the religious parties. It is important to understand that, on the one hand, the ruling is not legally innovative, but rather a continuation of consistent rulings that the Court has been rendering for 60 years. On the other hand, however, it opens wide gates for Israeli couples who wish to exercise their right to marry, either because the State of Israel prevents them from marrying or because it denies them the possibility to marry in an egalitarian ceremony that befits their worldview and lifestyle. This religious coercion is contrary to the wishes of a large majority of the Jewish public. Now that the Court has ruled, Hiddush will disseminate information and offer assistance to the general public regarding the possibility of getting married in this accessible, inexpensive and fast way, and by doing so we will continue to do our part to advance the full realization of the Declaration of Independence's promise of ‘freedom of religion and conscience for all’."

Attorney Sagi Agmon who represented Hiddush in the petition noted that "Today's brave ruling once again clarifies the enormous importance of the Supreme Court for individual rights and for protection from arbitrary decision by authorities, who are willing time and time again to go against the law just to serve the political positions of the incumbent minister. Once again this demonstrates the danger of the initiatives to weaken the Supreme Court and subjugate it to the decisions of politicians who buckle under religious coercion. Every couple in Israel should have the option to marry according to their beliefs and lifestyle. It is time for Israel to move forward into the 21st century and allow civil marriage for all."

Additional Background

Since October 2020, many Israeli couples have been married (as of today, approximately 600 couples) using the legal framework created by Utah County [Utah, USA] for remote civil marriages via video conferencing. Already at the end of 2020 Israel’s Population Authority examined the legality of the ceremony after receiving

We welcome the ruling of the Supreme Court, which opens an additional avenue for marriage for Israelis.”

applications from couples who married via Utah. After examining the eligibility of the couples to be so registered, according to the guidelines established according to the law and the rulings of the Supreme Court, the Population Authority decided to register them as married. However, even though the professional officials concluded that it was their duty to register the marriages, immediately following the news of the registration of Utah marriages appeared in the ultra-Orthodox and general media, the former Minister of the Interior and Shas party leader, Rabbi Aryeh Deri, intervened and ordered the Population Authority to halt the registration. Hiddush appealed to the authorities and the Attorney General at the time, demanding that they act in accordance with the law and the Supreme Court rulings, that mandate the State of Israel to register every couple as married upon presentation of an official marriage certificate from a foreign country certified with an apostille stamp. But despite this, the authorities followed the instructions of Rabbi Deri and refuse to register the couples.

For the past 60 years the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected the refusal of the Ministry of the Interior and consistently instructed that civil marriages from abroad should be registered, even when these were conducted while the spouses were physically in Israel and their marriage was performed abroad on the basis of a power of attorney, or at a foreign consulate in Tel Aviv. Despite this, under the pressure of the then Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri and with the consent of the previous Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, the State attempted to come up with a new rationale for its refusal to follow these precedents. This time, they came up with a new argument, albeit with no legal precedents to back it up. According to them, even though the marriage certificate was issued by the state of Utah and according to its laws, and even though the marriage officiant is in Utah, in the opinion of the Population Authority, the marriage should be seen as being conducted in Israel and not in Utah, and therefore it should not be registered since it was not conducted according to the law of the Torah and by the Rabbinate, which is mandated by law for all Israeli Jews marrying in Israel. The State's new argument for disregarding past rulings of the Supreme Court was rejected by both Judge Fink at the Administrative Court in Lod and Judge Rubin at the Administrative Court in Jerusalem.

The possibility of civil marriage in Utah through remote video conferencing became particularly important for Israeli couples, after the Covid-19 pandemic prevented couples from realizing their right to marry by leaving the country to marry abroad as thousands of Israeli couples had done every year until the pandemic. This was further exacerbated for a long period of time by the closure of marriage offices for the same reason, in such countries such as Cyprus or Italy , which that were popular marriage destinations for Israelis. Hiddush’s petition stressed that suspending the registration of Utah marriages caused serious damage not only to the legal right of these couples for marriage, but also harmed essential and sensitive consequences arising from marriage such as eligibility for fertility treatments, joint parenting of couples from the LGBT community, refusal to grant work visas for a spouse, and more.

Hiddush estimates that there are over 600,000 citizens who are denied marriage in Israel due to the monopoly of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate over the marriage of all Jews, and over a million more who, according to Hiddush surveys, would prefer to marry outside the Chief Rabbinate if it were up to them. In the 2022 Religion and State Index (published annually by Hiddush on the eve of the Jewish New Year) it was found, for example, that only 17%of the secular Jewish public would prefer to marry under the auspices of the Rabbinate if they had a choice, while 56% would prefer a civil marriage. In response to a question about Utah marriages 85% of the secular public expressed support for their recognition. The couples who are included in Hiddush’s petition represent different groups of couples seeking “Utah Marriage”: 1. couples who cannot marry in Israel at all due to the restrictions of Orthodox Jewish Law, such as LGBT, a groom who is presumed to be of priestly descent wish to marry a divorcee or a female convert, couples in which one or both spouses are not recognized as Jews by the Rabbinate, etc., 2. couples who refuse to marry via the Chief Rabbinate for reasons of conscience and values.


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