Parliamentarians from the left-wing Meretz party on Thursday held two same-sex wedding ceremonies and one civil marriage in front of the rabbinical court in Tel Aviv.

The nuptial protest was a response to comments made by Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan — number 4 on the right-wing Jewish Home party’s slate and a former director of the Israeli rabbinical court system — to the effect that legal recognition of gay marriage was a “recipe for the destruction of the Jewish people.”

“Thousands of Israeli couples every year do what we’re doing here — couples who cannot or do not wish to marry by way of the coercive establishment of the Chief Rabbinate,” said Mertez MK Nitzan Horowitz, the Knesset’s only openly gay member, who conducted the ceremony. “Because there are no civil unions in Israel, no same-sex marriage and no freedom of choice in marriage, hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens are deprived of this basic right.”

Horowitz highlighted the difficulties facing couples who do not cooperate with the Chief Rabbinate.

“They must fly abroad, spend thousands of dollars, become entangled with legal issues, are harassed by the clerks of [Shas party chairman] Eli Yishai, and after all that there are those who still have the nerve to say we are destroying the Jewish people — like some members of a certain right-wing party,” he said, alluding to the Jewish Home party and Ben Dahan. “The ones who are distancing us from Judaism are those same people who express themselves in such a manner, people who spread hate and meanness.”

Horowitz added that Meretz had always fought for human rights and would continue to do so in the future.

“I pronounce you — all of us — equal citizens in the gates of love,” he said in concluding the ceremony.