|Date: Feb 25, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|For civil marriage: Protesters call for option on home soil|
|Agence France Presse|
BEIRUT: Dozens of protesters rallied in Beirut over the weekend, calling on the government to recognize civil marriages carried out on home soil. The demonstrators gathered Saturday in front of the Interior Ministry in Sanayeh, days after recently appointed Interior Minister Raya El Hassan said she was willing to engage in “serious and profound dialogue” over the issue.
The minister’s comments prompted a backlash from religious bodies, including the highest Sunni authority in Lebanon, and stirred debate on social media.
Lebanon has 15 separate personal status laws for its recognized religions but no civil code covering issues such as marriage.
Many Lebanese couples travel to neighboring Cyprus to tie the knot in civil ceremonies.
The Lebanese authorities recognize civil marriages only if they have been registered abroad.
In an interview with Euronews last week, Hassan said she would “personally endorse” attempts to establish a framework to govern civil marriage in Lebanon.
“I personally prefer if there was a framework for civil marriage,” she said. “I will try to open the door for serious and profound dialogue on this issue with all religious authorities and others, with the support of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.”
Lebanon’s highest Sunni authority Dar al-Fatwa issued a response the day after Hassan’s interview was published, saying it “categorically rejects” civil unions conducted on Lebanese soil.
Such unions “violate the provisions of Islamic law” and “contravene the provisions of the Lebanese Constitution” regarding the authority of religious courts over personal status issues, it said.
The highest Shiite authority in the country also expressed opposition.
“The Lebanese Constitution recognizes that every sect has its own personal status laws,” deputy head of the Higher Shiite Council Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan said Friday.
“We strongly oppose civil marriage because it violates the Constitution,” he said.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said that the church was “not against civil marriage completely” but rejected instituting civil marriage in Lebanon.
“Marriage is one of the seven sacraments of the church and you must adhere to them,” he said.
In 2013, the Interior Ministry took the unprecedented step of registering a civil marriages conducted in Lebanon.
However, only a handful of unions have been recognized since the landmark decision, campaigner Lucien Bourjeily told AFP Saturday.
Former President Elias Hrawi in 1998 proposed a civil marriage law.
It gained approval from the Cabinet only to be halted amid widespread opposition from the country’s religious authorities.