The Population and Immigration Authority last week began registering the marriages of hundreds of couples that married online through the US state of Utah, after initially refusing to do so despite an explicit order from the High Court of Justice.

Due to a 2020 rule change in Utah, weddings conducted using videoconferencing software like Skype or Zoom are considered legally valid, provided at least one person involved — participant or officiant — is physically located in the state. This gave Israelis who don’t want to, or can’t, marry through the Chief Rabbinate an opportunity to legally marry in Israel, using an officiant in Utah. Some 600 Israelis, mostly LGBT and interfaith couples who cannot legally wed in Israel, have gotten married this way in the past three years.

Israel’s Interior Ministry has fought against these marriages in court twice, claiming that they were in fact conducted inside Israel — and not in Utah — and were thus not legitimate, but lost both times. The State Attorney’s Office appealed the rulings to the High Court of Justice on similar grounds last month.

In the meantime, the High Court has ruled that the lower courts’ orders stand and that all those who married through Utah should be registered as such by the Population Authority, with the understanding that these could be overturned in the future if the court accepts the state’s appeal against the practice.

Though the Population Authority quickly approved the marriages of the couples who were part of the initial lawsuit seeking recognition, it refused to do so for other couples married through Utah, despite the High Court explicitly ruling that all of the marriages should be recognized and not only those directly involved in the case. In response, the religious freedom organization Hiddush, which has represented the couples in these trials, sent a letter to the Population Authority, accusing it of violating the court’s orders.

For couples who married through Utah, lack of recognition of their marriages can carry major financial and lifestyle ramifications, including preventing partners from receiving parental leave if a baby is born and denying them certain tax benefits.

“In light of Hiddush’s letter, a number of couples informed us today that the Population Authority had decided to register all of the couples married through ‘Utah weddings,’ including those not involved in the lawsuit. In a clarifying telephone call with the office of the Population Authority, it was confirmed that the ban had been lifted and that their offices had been instructed to start the registration,” the organization said Thursday.

With few exceptions, Israel has no civil marriage, only religious marriage. Jews must marry through the Chief Rabbinate, Christians through a church, and Muslims through a Sharia court, which poses a major problem to the nearly half a million Israelis who are officially listed as being of “no religion,” as well as to LGBT Israelis and many interfaith couples.

A loophole to this lies in the fact that Israel recognizes marriages performed by other countries. For years, couples who could not legally marry in Israel held their weddings in nearby Cyprus.

In early 2020, as part of a small-government initiative, Utah began accepting weddings performed over videoconferencing software, which provided Israelis looking to marry outside the Rabbinate a way to do so that was cheaper and easier than flying abroad.

Though this loophole effectively gives Israelis access to civil marriage, divorces for Jewish Israelis are still technically controlled by the Chief Rabbinate.

I joined The Times of Israel after many years covering US and Israeli politics for Hebrew news outlets.

I believe responsible coverage of Israeli politicians means presenting a 360 degree view of their words and deeds – not only conveying what occurs, but also what that means in the broader context of Israeli society and the region.

That’s hard to do because you can rarely take politicians at face value – you must go the extra mile to present full context and try to overcome your own biases.

I’m proud of our work that tells the story of Israeli politics straight and comprehensively. I believe Israel is stronger and more democratic when professional journalists do that tough job well.

Your support for our work by joining The Times of Israel Community helps ensure we can continue to do so.

Thank you,
Tal Schneider, Political Correspondent

We’re really pleased that you’ve read X Times of Israel articles in the past month.

That’s why we started the Times of Israel ten years ago - to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.

So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.

For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.

Thank you,
David Horovitz, Founding Editor of The Times of Israel

QOSHE - Israel starts registering Utah ‘Zoom weddings,’ but fate of marriages still unclear - Judah Ari Gross
We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

Israel starts registering Utah ‘Zoom weddings,’ but fate of marriages still unclear

52 5 1
04.12.2022

The Population and Immigration Authority last week began registering the marriages of hundreds of couples that married online through the US state of Utah, after initially refusing to do so despite an explicit order from the High Court of Justice.

Due to a 2020 rule change in Utah, weddings conducted using videoconferencing software like Skype or Zoom are considered legally valid, provided at least one person involved — participant or officiant — is physically located in the state. This gave Israelis who don’t want to, or can’t, marry through the Chief Rabbinate an opportunity to legally marry in Israel, using an officiant in Utah. Some 600 Israelis, mostly LGBT and interfaith couples who cannot legally wed in Israel, have gotten married this way in the past three years.

Israel’s Interior Ministry has fought against these marriages in court twice, claiming that they were in fact conducted inside Israel — and not in Utah — and were thus not legitimate, but lost both times. The State Attorney’s Office appealed the rulings to the High Court of Justice on similar grounds last month.

In the meantime, the High Court has ruled that the lower courts’ orders stand and that all those who married through Utah should be registered as such by the Population Authority, with the understanding that these could be........

© The Times of Israel


Get it on Google Play