First Step for Civil Marriage in Lebanon
Recently, Lebanon has experienced something of a symbolic coup when it comes to civil marriage. The Ministry of Justice approved the country’s first civil marriage for couple Kholoud Sukkarieh and Nidal Darwish, issuing them a “family record" which is considered to be an official document that proves they’re married. The couple achieved this by exploiting a loophole in a pre-existing law adopted in 1936 by the High Commissioner during the French mandate in Lebanon that makes reference to civil unions. It stipulates that “those who are not affiliated with a sect are subject to civil law of personal status.” Until now, Lebanese who don’t subscribe to a particular religion have been forced to marry outside the country—often in Cyprus or Turkey— and by law, their children must follow the sect of their father.
The Sukkarieh Darwish civil marriage has sparked a national debate, pitting Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati against President Michel Suleiman. In a Twitter exchange with Mikati, Suleiman announced his support for civil marriage, stating “we should work on legalizing civil marriage contracts; this would be a step forward toward abolishing sectarianism and enhancing coexistence.” In response, Mikati stated that renewing the marriage debate would be “futile,” given the political challenges facing a country whose parliament is divided by sect and where religious issues strike a very personal chord. The Grand Mufti of Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim community vehemently opposed the idea of civil marriage, threatening a fatwa and stating that “every Muslim official, whether a deputy or a minister, who supports the legalization of civil marriage, even if it is optional, is an apostate and outside Islamic religion.” http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2013/01/30/263407.html
The announcement of the marriage between Darwish and Sukkarieh have pushed other activists to call for legalizing civil marriage in Lebanon. Supporters have created a Facebook page called "We held a civil marriage, and we wish you the same."
The page features hundreds of couples married in civil courts outside Lebanon, and pictures they took of their marriage ceremonies.
An online petition containing 10,000 signatures by supporters of civil marriage was addressed to Lebanese decision-makers asking them to approve the marriage of Darwish and Sukkarieh, and legalize civil marriage.
Lebanese journalist Diana Moukalad who supports civil marriage in her country has posted a photo of an ad on her Twitter account. The advertisement is for a lecture by Islamic scholar Wasim Al Marzouk, who plans to speak out against civil marriage. Moukalad also posted: “The scholars in Lebanon are too busy with their Friday prayers to speak against civil marriage. It sounds like our nation is doing well and this is the only thing we have to worry about."
Activist and Blogger Khodor Salameh posted a picture of himself, with an accompanying caption that reads: "Dear Mufti, I want to be married in the civil court, either way, I am going to go to hell. Signed by a Lebanese citizen who wishes to see your face on the last day"