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mikati defDespite President Michel Sleiman’s call for resuming the debate in the Cabinet over legalizing civil marriage in Lebanon , Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Tuesday after returning from Saudi Arabia that such a debate is useless amid the current circumstances in the country.

“This issue is not on the table at the moment, since it was discussed years ago”, National News Agency quoted Mikati as saying during Tuesday’s cabinet session.

Suleiman’s announcement on Sunday in Arabic and English on his Facebook page that Lebanon should work on drafting a civil marriage law to help build unity in the multi-faith country, appears to have helped the issue gain momentum . 95 % of the respondents reportedly backed the president’s position .

Mikati’s comments will surely disappoint many Lebanese who were hoping that the government will take up this issue immediately and refer it to the parliament for a vote.

2 cabinet ministers jumped on the civil marriage bandwagon after Suleiman’s announcement and voiced their support for it as an alternative.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi announced during separate interviews with an Nahar newspaper in remarks published on Monday that they support civil marriage in Lebanon as an alternative but both said the issue requires proper laws that regulate such a union .

Charbel pointed out that this issue needs a law that defines the rights and duties of each spouse, regulates the relationship between the spouses before marriage , during and after marriage, divorce, inheritance and others, but such a law can only be dealt with and adopted by the parliament

The discussion on this whole 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.

When asked by An Nahar to comment on president Michel Suleiman’s support for civil marriage Khuloud said: “I felt great when I read what the president said and I hope he will use his position to press the issue to give the lebanese people another choice away from sectarianism.”

In his weekly article in PSP’s al Anbaa newspaper ,Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt lauded Suleiman’s “progressive thinking,” for supporting civil marriage in Lebanon , hoping that this measure will mark the beginning of the process of elimination of sectarian barriers in the country .

Despite Mikati’s refusal to discuss the issue, Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud reportedly asked the prime minister to put the issue on the Cabinet’s agenda next week.

The chairman of the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee MP Michel Musa said that the government should allow couples to have a civil marriage in Lebanon instead of forcing many Lebanese travel abroad to wed.

According to observers there will be a lot of pressure on Mikati from within the cabinet , the legislative and the executive branches to take up this issue while it is still hot.

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