A Breakthrough in the Struggle for Freedom of Marriage:

We Have Never Been So Close to Civil Marriage

At the beginning of March 2023, the Supreme Court accepted Hiddush’s arguments and dismissed the State's appeal against the ruling of the Jerusalem Administrative Court on the issue of "Utah marriages". The Jerusalem Administrative court ruled in favor of the petition filed by Hiddush and ordered that the Population Authority and the Ministry of the Interior are obligated to register as married any couple who marry through the “Utah online marriage". The ruling of the Supreme Court concludes the legal part of Hiddush’s two-year battle against the Minister of the Interior and the Population Authority and enables thousands of couples to marry in a civil marriage without having to leave Israel. Unfortunately (and shamefully) civil marriage and divorce in Israel are still a distant reality, but the ruling of the Supreme Court constitutes a breakthrough in the struggle for freedom of marriage. You can read more about the ruling of the Supreme Court here.

Source: Hiddush Religion & State Index 2022 Conducted by the Smith InstituteSource: Hiddush Religion & State Index 2022 Conducted by the Smith Institute


The court upheld the position of Hiddush that the consistent rulings of the Supreme Court since the 1960’s regarding overseas civil marriages should be applied to Utah online marriages as well. Namely, in all cases in which the State tried to refuse to register civil marriages of Israelis who had married abroad the court ordered the authorities to do so.

These included a couple of cases in which the couple was physically in Israel at the time of the marriage [one was done via proxy in El Salvador and the other – in the Brazilian consulate in Tel Aviv]. The significance of the decision is that the Population Authority will continue to be obligated to register couples who married abroad, even if they are physically present in Israel during the ceremony and the marriage was conducted via an online platform. The State’s appeal was filed after the Administrative Court ruled in favor of Hiddush - for Freedom of Religion and Equality, in a petition it brought on behalf of eight couples who were wed via “Zoom” by the Utah County marriage authorities, as well as rabbis Spector and Levinsky of Utah who conducted weddings of Israeli couples online.

"Utah marriages" take place via the marriage online platform that was created some years ago by Utah County. They are conducted via video conferencing by an authorized marriage officiant in the state of Utah, USA, and have already enabled thousands of couples from all over the world, including already more than 1000 couples from Israel, to get married from their place of residence without having to physically travel to Utah. Israel recognizes marriages conducted within its borders only when conducted by religious authorities of the different recognized religious communities and when done 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 400,000 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 or the thousands of individuals who were entered by the rabbinic authorities into the “Black List” they conduct.) All of these, and of course couples who refuse to

At the beginning of March 2023, the Supreme Court accepted Hiddush’s arguments and dismissed the State's appeal against the ruling of the Jerusalem Administrative Court on the issue of "Utah marriages". "

marry in the State sanctioned Orthodox Rabbinic establishment for reasons of conscience, are now able to marry through Utah County’s online marriage platform without leaving the country.

We welcome the ruling of the Supreme Court, which opens an additional avenue for marriage for Israelis. 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, because it embraces the technological innovation of distant conferencing, 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. Religious coercion is contrary to the wishes of the large majority of the Jewish public, as evidenced in polls by Hiddush and by others.

Now that the Court has ruled, Hiddush will widely disseminate information and offer assistance to the general public regarding the possibility of getting married in this accessible, inexpensive and fast way. By doing so we will continue to do our part to advance the full realization of Israel’s Declaration of Independence's promise of ‘freedom of religion and conscience for all’."

This important Supreme Court ruling once again demonstrates how important the need is for an independent Supreme Court with the authority to defend individual rights and offer protection from arbitrary decision by authorities, who are willing time and time again to go against the law, civil liberties and human dignity just to serve the political demands fundamentalist religious ministers and parties. Once again this demonstrates the danger of the current 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 join the rest of the democratic family of nations and allow freedom of marriage for all.

The ruling evoked much interest, and was covered extensively in the media, both local and international. You can read some examples here.


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