Lebanon Caretaker Justice Minister Shakib-Qortbawi referred on Thursday the civil marriage draft law to the caretaker cabinet.
“If the law is put into effect, then civil marriage becomes applicable as an optional law in Lebanon,” Qortbawi told LBCI television on Thursday.
“Then people will no longer have to travel to conduct the nonreligious unions abroad,” he added.
The minister pointed out that according to this draft law, the couple chooses the civil marriage law of a foreign country to govern all matters related to the union.
However, LBCI remarked that a part of the fees paid in return for approval of this marriage by the state courts will be handed over to religious authorities.
Legal expert Talal Husseini slammed this clause in the draft law, comparing it to “ bribing in exchange for freedom.”
The catch here is that the couple has to pay a 500,000 Lebanese Lira ($333.33) fee that would ultimately go either to a religious court or the state treasury, in a typically Lebanese complicated way.
If the couple getting a civil marriage license is Lebanese, the fee goes to the religious court of the man. If the man is foreign and from a country that has a sectarian-based personal status law system like Lebanon, the fee goes to whatever sectarian court in Beirut he would be affiliated with as if he were Lebanese.
If the man is foreign and from a country with civil personal status laws, the fee goes to the religious court governing the Lebanese wife’s sect. If both are foreign but one is from a country with sectarian personal status laws, the fee would go to the affiliated sectarian court in Beirut. If both are foreign and from countries with civil personal status laws, the fee is paid to the Lebanese treasury.
In April 2013, the Higher Committee for Consultations at the Justice Ministry responded to inquiries submitted by the Interior Ministry on the legality of civil marriage in Lebanon.
Kholoud Succariyeh and Nidal Darwish
The debate over civil marriage issue started last year after Kholoud Succariyeh and Nidal Darwish announced in January that they had wed as a secular couple by having their religious sects legally struck from their family registers under an article dating from the 1936 French mandate.
Legalizing civil marriage has sparked debate among the country’s political and religious authorities with President Michel Suleiman advocating it and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati and Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani rejecting it.