Ministry must register Utah online civil marriages, Supreme Court rules

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

An Israeli couple marries in an online civil marriage ceremony under the auspices of Utah County in the US State of Utah. (Courtesy WedinSea)
An Israeli couple marries in an online civil marriage ceremony under the auspices of Utah County in the US State of Utah. (Courtesy WedinSea)

The Supreme Court rules the Interior Ministry is obligated to register as married couples who wed in online civil ceremonies through the US state of Utah, providing for the first time a legal civil marriage option for Israelis without leaving the country.

The court rules that the Population and Immigration Authority had no legal right in 2020 to refuse to register such marriages since its only task is to register valid legal marriage documents and not to delve into complex legal questions.

Israeli couples first began to use Utah’s online civil marriage services in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic when they could not travel abroad for civil ceremonies, which are not available in Israel.

Then-interior minister Aryeh Deri ordered the Population and Immigration Authority to suspend the registration of such marriages, an order upheld by Deri’s successor Ayelet Shaked, but several couples petitioned the courts against the decision.

Some 1,200 couples have married in Utah’s online civil marriages since 2020.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman welcomes the ruling, saying it was “good that the Supreme Court stood up to the religious coercion of Deri and his friends who are trying to lead us into a state of religious law.”

Shas MK Moshe Arbel of Shas decries the decision, however, saying it demonstrates the need to push through the government’s radical judicial overhaul agenda.

“The Supreme Court’s recognition on Purim of civil marriages performed over the Zoom app is a sad joke at the expense of all of Israel’s religious and traditional citizens, and expresses more than anything the desire to advance the values of a state of all its citizens and erase the Jewish identity of the state,” says Arbel.

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