Let my partner goLet my partner go

Gay couple turns to rabbis for divorce

Married in Canada, a former MK and his partner now need the approval of an Israeli rabbinical court to officially end their relationship

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Uzi Even (photo credit: CC-BY-SA Bulusaristo/Wikipedia)
Uzi Even (photo credit: CC-BY-SA Bulusaristo/Wikipedia)

In an ironic turn of events that reflects the convoluted bureaucracy of marriage in Israel, two gay men who decided to terminate their relationship have been forced to turn to Israel’s rabbinical court for a divorce.

Uzi Even, a professor at Tel Aviv University and a former Meretz MK, and Amit Kama, a lecturer at the Academic College of Emek Yezreel, filed a request at the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court for an official divorce three years after they separated, in order to allow Even to remarry, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

Even and Kama wed in Canada in 2004, and upon returning to Israel asked the state to recognize their marriage. While the Interior Ministry initially refused their request, the state was forced by the High Court of Justice to register the couple in 2006, after a lengthy legal battle.

Amit Kama (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Amit Kama (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Three years later, the couple decided to part ways, but then the legal difficulties arose. While Canada allows non-citizens to marry in the country, divorces can only be registered for Canadian nationals. In Israel, all matters of marriage and divorce are by law entrusted to the religious courts, and Jews must apply through the rabbinical courts.

But Even and Kama couldn’t get divorced in the rabbinical court, because it had never recognized their marriage. So they turned to a lawyer, who drafted an agreement to part ways. The agreement was approved by the Ramat Gan Family Court, which recommended that the state recognize it as an official divorce.

The state refused, however, citing the law that gave the rabbinical court system sole power over such matters.

They were then forced to turn to the rabbinical court in Tel Aviv.

“The rights of marriage and divorce are basic rights, and the state must find a way to grant all people access to them,” Even and Kama’s attorney, Judith Meisels, told Yedioth.

The couple has paved the way in a number of same-sex issues in Israel. A petition by Even forced his employer — Tel Aviv University — to award Kama all the social benefits it provided the spouses of other professors, and a 2009 verdict allowed the two to adopt a son.

The 71-year-old Even was at the center of another legal battle for gay rights when, as a legislator in 1993, he championed and passed a law to allow openly gay soldiers to serve in any army unit.

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