Civil marriage in Lebanon: A need and a controversy

Religious groups have publically voiced their denunciation of El-Hassan’s proposals.
by Ghadir Hamadi and Christina Farhat

26 February 2019 | 11:54

Source: by Annahar

This photo shows a young protester demanding her right for civil marriage within Lebanon. (AP Photo)

BEIRUT: Newly appointed Minister of Interior Rayya El-Hassan voiced her support for re-introducing the civil marriage debate early last week. 

This comes as the latest advancement toward legalization, with notable previous attempts made by President Elias Hrawi proposing legalization of civil marriage in 1998, former Minister of Interior Marwan Charbel approving dozens of civil unions in 2013, and advocates pushing for legalization of civil unions for decades.

El-Hassan stated that she personally prefers it “if there was a framework for civil marriage,” and that it is something that she will try to open room for a serious and deep discussion on.

“I know that this topic has a political and sectarian dimension to it, and I have to take this into consideration, but I will open this discussion with all religious figures,” she said.

The Lebanese government only recognizes civil marriages if they have been registered outside Lebanon.

With 15 different religious authorities and 18 different sects, the civil marriage debate in Lebanon is complicated, to say the least, sending thousands of Lebanese to wed in nearby Cyprus, Turkey, and Greece.

Religious groups have publically voiced their denunciation of El-Hassan’s proposals.

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai told reporters that he rejected the notion of allowing civil marriage in Lebanon.

Dar al-Fatwa, the highest Sunni authority in Lebanon, issued a public statement reinforcing its absolute rejection for the legalization of civil marriage on the grounds that it “contradicts the provisions of Islamic law,” among other concerns.

Different interpretations of the Lebanese Constitution have been cited by proponents, both for and against civil unions, with Article 9, Freedom of Opinion, commonly cited.

Nourhan Hussein a Radio/TV graduate who plans on having a civil marriage with her fiancé in Cyprus told Annahar that she doesn’t get “what the big fuss is about.”

“Those who opt for civil marriage can simply have one, and those who want a religious one can have a religious marriage,” she said.

Chadi Nakhle, Head of Section at Broummana High School, shared with Annahar his support in favor of civil marriage.

“I believe marriage is a sacred union, blessed by God. That is why I married in Church. Yet I believe it is people’s right not to share my beliefs and to choose a civil marriage instead.”

“With all due respect, you are the spiritual guides of your followers only. Your ‘authority’ does not include those who do not share your beliefs. You are not God,” he added, as a clear message to religious authorities.

In 2013, a couple sparked controversy across Lebanon when they were able to achieve civil marriage without leaving the country.

The couple, Nidal Darwish and Kholoud Sukkarieh, used a legal loophole by removing their sect from their official records, which according to the Lebanese law meant there was no religious court for them to get married in, and had to register their marriage in civil law.

The couple signed their civil marriage document on November 10, 2013 and moved shortly after it to Sweden.

However, despite the citizens who support the legalization of civil marriage in Lebanon, some are against it, like Marketing fresh graduate, Ali Rifai, who believes that “marriage is holy and sacred, you either do it through God, or not at all.”

Others believe that Lebanon has other issues that are more worth attending to than civil marriage.

Dana Jabak, school teacher, told Annahar that she believes that civil marriage should be the “last thing on our mind right now,” although she insists that she won’t have a problem getting a civil marriage if she needs to.

“It’s not like all the other problems in the country have been fixed and the only corrupt thing left is religious marriage,” she said.

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