Lebanon: Civil Marriage Advocates Call for Interior Minister to Resign

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Nidal Dariwsh (R) and Kholoud Succariyeh (L) are Lebanon's first couple to have a civil marriage on Lebanese territory. Al-Akhbar/Haitham Moussawi

By: Eva Shoufi

Published Friday, February 6, 2015

The Civil Authority for Freedom of Choice urged Minister of Interior and Municipalities Nouhad al-Machnouk to resign. Next they intend to pursue the issuance of birth certificates that do not mention sect. Meanwhile, the Committee of Muslim Scholars warned of “the consequences” of such actions.

Responding to the rise of religious extremism in the region, and the growing violence in the name of religion, the Committee of Muslim Scholars decided to take charge and address the situation. “The Committee, its supporters, and all Muslims and honorable people cannot stand idly by in the face of such a great sin being committed against them” and “a crime that violates the sanctity of the family,” said a statement issued by the committee.

The committee decided to confront civil marriage advocates in Lebanon, calling on “political and religious leaders, as well as Prime Minister Tammam Salam, to reject the inclusion of optional civil marriage as an item on the cabinet agenda.”

In a sharp tone, the committee warned against “the continuation of raising provocative issues that compromise religious standards and foundations.” It also threatened that “there will be consequences on all levels (…), for what was not achieved at a crucial period of time for [religious] references will not be achieved now.”

In its press conference on Thursday, civil marriage advocates downplayed the importance of the statement made by the Committee of Muslim Scholars, saying that the committee does not represent anyone, and that the current battle isn’t geared towards proving the legitimacy of civil marriage or engaging in a debate about it, but is rather intended to implement procedures pertaining to the registration of civil marriage contracts in accordance with Lebanese law.

The Civil Authority escalated its attack on Interior Minister Nouhad al-Machnouk, stating that “if Cyprus is not far, then the minister’s house is even closer.” The group clearly called on Machnouk to resign, saying that if he faces “obstacles or inconsistencies hindering the implementation of the law, due to certain considerations, promises, or pledges, all he has to do is leave.” The Authority accused the interior minister of “lack of knowledge in legal matters, and stupidity,” vowing to sue Machnouk and Susan al-Khoury, director-general of the Directorate of Personal Status, “to report your well-known crimes and not to prove the legitimacy of civil marriage contracts. We will also resort to disciplinary bodies.”

Sources told Al-Akhbar that the confrontation between the Civil Authority and Machnouk will not be limited to courts and speeches, noting that the Authority will soon go a step further than crossing out confessional affiliation from identity cards and conducting civil marriage contracts in Lebanon, towards granting citizens with no confessional identity the right to obtain new birth certificates that do not mention sect. This would be part of the “battle to free the Lebanese,” according to legal scholar Talal al-Husseini.

For its part, the Committee of Muslim Scholars did not only reject the signing of civil marriage contracts, but also attacked those who are undermining the interests of clerics. The Committee believes that notaries “who conduct civil marriage contracts violate the provisions of Law 337 on the notary system,” and thus should be subjected to judicial and disciplinary action.

However, notary Joseph Bishara, the first notary to sign a civil marriage contract in Lebanon, asserted that “a notary is entitled to ratify all documents that do not breach the law or public order. According to Provision 60, this particular contract does not violate public order, because civil marriage does not compromise public order. There are judicial provisions that recognize civil marriage contracts concluded abroad.”

In response to Machnouk’s claims, al-Husseini said that a law on ordinary legislative procedures is not required to prove the legitimacy of provisions and contracts in this regard. Also, comparing religious contracts to civil contracts is not in the interest of religious contracts. Civil contracts are based on the same legal text that offers sects and their courts legal recognition and powers. The same text governs the validity of marriage between two people who do not belong to a recognized or regular sect, meaning the civil marriage contract, and refers to the provisions of the civil law, which is the French civil law. The civil contract is indeed the only type of contract that is completely in line with the Lebanese constitution.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

Please tell me whether Lebanon is a democratic country where being straight or gay is an accepted fact of life, or is Lebanon another one of those nations where civil liberties are forbidden and religious leaders use their powers to supress those who simply want to enjoy the gift of life and do so without having to constantly watch their back so as not to break stupid religious rules made up simply by Mullahs and similar for controlling the people.

The reiligion salesmen are afraid civil marriage will affect their pockets and their existence.
The only way to move forward and shed tha shackles of ignorance, backwardness and medival laws is to break away from religion at all levels of government and politics.
The argument against civil marriage and its impact on family and ethics is B.S.

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