Civil marriage issue may split Lebanon cabinet


cabinet Shakib Qortbawi- Justice minsiterJustice Minister Shakib Qortbawi reiterated his support for civil marriage on Sunday despite the objection of  Prime Minister Najib  Mikati  who called  the  debate of the issue  a waste of time and useless   amid the current circumstances in the country.

In an interview with Voice of Lebanon radio , Qortbawi said that if  Mikati continued to reject putting the issue on the cabinet’s agenda, then any MP can bypass the cabinet and propose a draft-law so that it takes the path of legislation in parliament.”

President Michel Suleiman’s announcement last 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  has already  surely disappointed many Lebanese who were hoping that the government will take up this issue immediately and refer it to the parliament for a vote.

Progressive Socialist party leader MP Jumblatt , who along with Suleiman and Mikati form the centrist  bloc in the cabinet praised Suleiman’s announcement   calling  it progressive thinking”  and adding “this measure will mark the beginning of the process of elimination of sectarian barriers in the country

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

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel who  represents Suleiman and  Qortbawi  who represents MP Michel Aoun announced during separate interviews with an Nahar newspaper in remarks published last Monday that they support civil marriage in Lebanon as an alternative but both said the issue requires proper laws that regulate such a union . Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud who also represents Aoun reportedly asked the prime minister to put the issue on the Cabinet’s agenda next week.

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 came about 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 including deleting  the mention of their religious sects from their Lebanese IDs and basing their marriage on 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.

Attorney Talal Husseini, who authored their contract  revealed that  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.

The chairman of the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee MP Michel Musa said last week  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.