Lebanese President Michel Suleiman who is currently in Moscow on an official visit expressed on Sunday his support for a law allowing civil marriages, currently illegal in Lebanon, saying it will help build unity in the multi-faith country.
“We should work on drafting a civil marriage law. It is a very important step in eradicating sectarianism and solidifying national unity,” Suleiman wrote in Arabic and English on his Facebook page.
His views appeared alongside a photo of a man carrying his daughter on his shoulders at a rally. She is seen holding a stuffed animal and a sign reading “civil marriage, not civil war.”
On his Twitter account, Suleiman further asked his followers to share their opinions about civil marriage in Lebanon.
Former President Elias Hrawi in 1998 proposed a similar law, which gained approval from the cabinet only to be halted amid widespread opposition from the country’s religious authorities.
Most religious faiths have their own regulations governing marriage, divorce and inheritance, and mixed Christian-Muslim weddings in Lebanon are often discouraged unless one of the potential spouses converts.
The Lebanese authorities recognize civil weddings only if they have been registered abroad, and it has become common for mixed-faith couples to marry in nearby Cyprus.
Researchers and legal experts at the Civil Center for National Initiative said on Saturday that there are no obstacles in front of civil marriage in Lebanon for those who decide to remove their sects from their IDs, LBCI television reported.
“The 1936’s law is more advanced and open than the ones adopted nowadays,” Change and Reform bloc MP Ghassan Moukheiber expressed in an interview with LBCI.
He stated: “We demand the state to take into consideration those that are not affiliated with any religion or sect”.
“The biggest challenge today is building citizenship,” he added.
The discussion on this issue comes soon after Kholoud Sukkariyah and Nidal Darwish challenged the sectarian personal status code in Lebanon and became the first couple to hold a civil marriage in lebanon
To achieve their objective was not easy and required some paperwork . Here is what they had to do:
1- Deleted the mention of their religious sects from their Lebanese IDs to prove before the law that they are not affiliated with any religious sect that forces them to marry before a religious court. This gave them the right to hold a civil marriage in accordance with Article 60 L.R.
2: Obtained a form signed by the Mukhtar ( village elected official) confirming their identity and proving that there are no objections to their marriage
3- Announced their intention to marry 15 days before the actual wedding date ceremony to make sure that there were no objections to it. The announcement was supposed to be published in the Official Gazette or at least two newspapers, but in order to prevent any objections , they posted the announcement on the doors of their parents’ houses and on the door of their own house.
4- Obtained a legal document signed by a notary public after both chose the article included in the marriage contract
The key of course is Decree No. 60 L.R. which was adopted in 1936 by the High Commissioner during the French Mandate in Lebanon , which organizes and recognizes sects and grants them rights, said Lawyer Talal Husseini, who authored the draft. The decree says that those who are not affiliated with a sect are subject to the civil law of personal status, as well as to the introduction of the Constitution which adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“Kholoud and Nidal’s marital contract was signed by the Notary Public and it was referred to Interior Minister Marwan Charbel who will look into its legitimacy,” LBCI reported.
Khouloud and Nidal are of course still waiting for the Ministry of Interior to officially announce their marriage, but this beats going to Cyprus where most Lebanese couples go to get a civil marriage.