Shalom Life | September 16, 2014

Israel Grants Citizenship to Same-Sex Spouses of Jews

A change to the Law of Return now offers the same citizenship rights to gay couples as heterosexual couples

By: Daniel Koren

Published: August 12th, 2014 in News » Israel

Israel Grants Citizenship to Same-Sex Spouses of Jews

The State of Israel has made a historical change to the Law of Return, granting the same citizenship rights to homosexual couples that heterosexual couples currently enjoy.

As announced by Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar, the Law of Return now applies to spouses of gay and lesbian Jews who immigrate to Israel with their partner. Whether or not the spouse is Jewish or not is irrelevant, as, according to Sa'ar and Israel's Population and Immigration Administration, "Israel's doors will be open to every Jew and his family, without any discrimination against his lifestyle."

The new change applies to those individuals looking to make aliyah, and aren't already citizens of Israel. The change, as Ynet reports, is a "liberal interpretation" of an amendment first made in 1970.

Sa'ars decision is a historical one for Israel. It will allow, for the first time, a Jew in a same-sex marriage who is legally married to make aliyah to Israel with his/her spouse, regardless if the spouse is Jewish or not.

Both will enjoy full rights in the country as citizens.

As stated by the Law of Return:

4A. (a) The rights of a Jew under this Law and the rights of an oleh under the Nationality Law, 5712-1952***, as well as the rights of an oleh under any other enactment, are also vested in a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew, except for a person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his religion.

Sa'ar said that his decision came as a result of the issue being raised in many recent immigration applications to the Interior Ministry. In the statement marking his decision, he wrote that "the point of the Law of Return is an ingathering of the Jewish people from exile, and the purpose of the 1970 amendment was to enable the family of a Jewish person to come to Israel as an equal to him, in order to encourage immigration."

He continued. "I do not see any reason to distinguish between Jews who had a heterosexual marriage and Jews who had a same-sex marriage abroad, according to the law. Both meet the requirements of the Law of Return, from the perspective of 'and the sons have returned.'"

Israel, particularly Tel Aviv, is known for its thriving gay culture and nightlife.

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