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Israeli Supreme Court allows ‘Utah weddings’ via Zoom, essentially legalizing civil marriage in Israel

Move is condemned by the political right as example of judicial overreach

An Israeli couple in an online civil marriage ceremony officiated in the State of Utah. (Photo: WedinSea/Facebook)

The Supreme Court of Israel rejected a petition filed by the state against registering civil marriages performed via video conference. The court's ruling specifically refers to marriage certificates issued by the state of Utah, following a online wedding ceremony.

The ruling on “Utah weddings” essentially means that Israel’s Population Authority will be required to register couples who are married online by overseas officials, even if they were physically present in Israel.

“Utah weddings” first became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic when Israelis could not travel overseas and following a change in Utah law in 2020, which legalized weddings conducted through video conferencing, provided that the officiant was present in the state.

Hundreds of Israeli couples have since been able to marry through such ceremonies in the last three years without having to travel to the United States. Traditionally, Israelis who could not get married in Israel by law, traveled to Cyprus for civil weddings. 

The three Supreme Court justices who heard the case ruled unanimously that the Population Authority registrar must record the marriages in the Population Registry. 

Many Israelis, possibly hundreds of thousands, are unable to marry in Israel because weddings must be conducted according to religious law, with Jews only permitted to be married by an Orthodox Jewish rabbi. Those citizens who have no registered religion, or Messianic Jews, or adherents to Reform or Conservative Judaism, or interfaith couples, or couples who are considered invalid according to religious law, such as same-sex couples have not been able to marry in the Jewish nation.

Hiddush, an organization that works for religious freedoms in Israel, filed the original petition to register the Utah weddings. 

“The State of Israel is the only Western democracy in the world that denies its citizens the freedom of marriage due to the demand of the religious parties,” said Hiddush CEO, Rabbi Uri Regev. “We welcome the ruling of the Supreme Court, which opens another channel for marriage for the citizens and residents of Israel.” 

The ruling was strongly condemned by Knesset Member Moshe Arbel of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. 

“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,” Arbel said. 

Orthodox Jews also protested the ruling on social media. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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