At Gisha’s request, HCJ issues order nisi instructing the Ministry of Interior to explain discrimination in the registration process against Israelis who marry foreign nationals
As previously reported, on December 8, 2015, Gisha filed an amended High Court petition against the the Population and Immigration Authority’s “Procedure on Amendments and Corrections to Marital Status (Marriage/Divorce/Widowhood) ” (Hebrew), procedure No. 2.11.0001 of the Population Authority (HCJ 3987/15 Gisha v. Minister of Interior, (Hebrew)). The petition challenges sections 4.2 and 4.5 of the procedure, which allow Ministry of Interior officials to postpone updating the marital status of Israelis who marry foreign nationals to “married” and keep it as “under review” for a period of three months. The procedure originally set the probationary period at six months, but immediately after the petition was filed, the Ministry of Interior reduced it by half.
Gisha argued that the Ministry of Interior has no authority to delay registering marriages of Israeli citizens, whether they marry other Israeli nationals or foreign nationals, so long as they present an admissible marriage certificate, as required by law and as instructed by the High Court in a variety of cases over the years. Gisha also argued that keeping the marital status as “under review” is not only injurious and degrading, but actually denies Israeli citizens rights and benefits granted only to people who are registered as married. In particular, this delay denies Israeli citizens who marry Gaza residents’ entry into Gaza so long as their marital status has not been updated to “married”. Gisha also argued that marital status registration has no bearing on the foreign spouse’s legal status in Israel, so that there is no justification for delaying it (the registration of the marriage itself does not automatically result in the regulation of the foreign spouse’s legal status in Israel, which is subject to separate protocols).
At the conclusion of the hearing held for the petition on July 13, 2016, the court proposed that the state consider updating the martial status of Israelis who present an admissible Israeli marriage certificate to “married” immediately, and add an annotation that the status is subject to further inquiries. The state rejected the proposition (Hebrew) in its response on September 27, 2016, and insisted that the probationary period is necessary for ascertaining the admissibility and authenticity of the marriage certificate presented to it.
In another hearing (Hebrew) held in the petition on December 6, 2016, counsel for Gisha repeated our arguments and insisted the petition be accepted in its entirety – both for persons presenting Israeli marriage certificates and those presenting foreign ones. During the hearing, and after questions posed by the justices, counsel for the state admitted the probationary period is not required for guaranteeing the authenticity of the marriage certificates, but for distinguishing between those who married foreigners and those who married Israelis. The purpose of this distinction was not clarified.
After the hearing, the High Court decided to issue an order nisi (Hebrew), giving the state 60 days to explain the grounds for distinguishing between marriages between Israelis and marriages between Israelis and foreigners, which would justify delaying registration.