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Ruling a victory for Israel's gays
Unions from abroad must be registered
November 22, 2006
JERUSALEM -- The Israeli Supreme Court touched off fresh controversy over gay rights Tuesday when it ordered the government to register same-sex marriages of couples who wed abroad.
The ruling by a seven-judge panel, though limited in scope, reignited a debate over the rights of homosexuals in Israel after ultra-Orthodox religious leaders led protests against a gay pride parade planned in Jerusalem earlier this month.
The 6-1 decision was hailed by rights advocates as a political advance for homosexuals, who have won previous court decisions granting them broader rights in areas such as survivor benefits and inheritance. It also was cheered by those who support legalizing civil marriages in Israel, where only religious ceremonies are allowed.
"I am glad we won and got what we wanted, ... which was the basic right to be registered as married by the Israeli Ministry of Interior, just as any couple marrying abroad does and takes it for granted," Joseph Bar Lev, 39, who was one of the petitioners, told Israel Radio. "The real aspiration is that civil marriage will be possible in Israel too."
The ruling did not legalize same-sex weddings in Israel, where religious authorities by law hold a monopoly on authorizing marriages and divorces.
Activists said being registered as married could help gay spouses gain the right to make decisions about medical care for their partners.
Also Tuesday, the Israeli military launched a three-pronged offensive in the northern Gaza Strip, killing a top Hamas commander in its latest operation against Palestinian rocket squads.
Militants launched five homemade projectiles, including three that landed in southern Israel. One critically wounded a man in Sderot, striking the ground a half-mile from a convoy carrying the United Nations' top human-rights official, who was touring the town.
Ground troops backed by helicopters, tanks and snipers surrounded the Gaza City home of Ayman Hassanin, 26, a local leader in the military wing of the ruling Hamas group, witnesses said.
A fierce gun battle erupted, and Hassanin was killed, Hamas said. A 70-year-old woman also was killed in the battle, Palestinian medical officials said.
Also, a team of UN investigators has concluded that Israel engaged in "a significant pattern of excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate force" against Lebanese civilians that amounted to "a flagrant violation" of international law during its war against Hezbollah last summer.
"Cumulatively, the deliberate and lethal attacks" by the Israeli defense forces against civilians and infrastructure "amounted to collective punishment," the investigators, who were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, wrote in a draft report published Tuesday.