Cabinet to Tackle Controversial Civil Marriage from Outside Agenda

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The cabinet is expected to tackle on Wednesday the thorny civil marriage dilemma to take the adequate decision regarding the matter.

Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq decided on Tuesday to raise the issue from outside the cabinet’s agenda after coming under the fire of the civil society as the Directorate General of Personal Status has 54 civil marriage documents awaiting for approval.

Former Interior Minister Ziad Baroud expressed astonishment in comments published in An Nahar newspaper that the civil marriage issue returned to the zero zone after the registration of seven marriages so far.

“How can couples who are undergoing the same legal process be treated in a different and contradicting matter?” Baroud wondered.

Baroud stressed that “the failure to endorse a law that organizes the civil marriage doesn’t turn such marriages illegal as long as they don’t violate the Lebanese system.”

In 2013, Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel signed the civil marriage certificate of Kholoud Succariyeh and Nidal Darwish, in a first move, after they removed the reference of their sects from their respective IDs and based their marital contract on Decree No. 60 L.R.

The couple became the first civil marriage registered in the records of the Directorate General for Personal Affairs in Lebanon.

The Lebanese Supreme Council in the Ministry of Justice took an unanimous decision in February last year to consider legal all civil marriages conducted in Lebanon by people that do not have any religious affiliation.

Notary Joseph Beshara told the daily that the issue is “humanitarian and legal,” noting the state can’t prevent any couple from getting married, in particular if they practiced their freedom of belief and had de-listed themselves from their sect’s registration.

“In this case they are obliged to be married according to civil rules.”

The decree, which organizes and recognizes religious communities and grants them rights, says those who are not affiliated with a sect are subject to the civil law of personal status, as well as to the introduction of the Constitution which adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Despite a long-running campaign by civil groups, such weddings still have no legal basis in Lebanon.

Former President Elias Hrawi in 1998 proposed a similar law, which gained approval from the cabinet only to be halted amid widespread opposition from the country’s religious authorities.

Most religious faiths have their own regulations governing marriage, divorce and inheritance, and mixed Christian-Muslim weddings in Lebanon are often discouraged unless one of the potential spouses converts.

The Lebanese authorities recognize civil weddings only if they have been registered abroad, and it has become common for mixed-faith couples to marry in nearby Cyprus.

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