BEIRUT: A group of ministers and judges held an “expanded” meeting Friday in the headquarters of Lebanon’s Justice Ministry in Beirut over legalizing civil marriage in Lebanon, the state-run National News Agency reported.
Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and two judges from the Higher Committee for Consultations discussed the legal aspects of a ruling by the committee which approved a recent civil marriage conducted in Lebanon, the NNA said.
Qortbawi told The Daily Star that the interior minister required clarification over some legal aspects of the civil marriage.
“Minister Charbel had a lot of questions to ask and we answered him. He might also send the committee some written questions,” said Qortbawi.
The Higher Committee for Consultations in the Justice Ministry recently approved the marriage of Kholoud Succariyeh and Nidal Darwish, a young couple that requested to register their civil marriage in Lebanon after removing their sects from their official documents.
However, Charbel said he still has to examine the request.
According to the committee’s ruling, a public notary is entitled to uphold the marriage of Lebanese citizens who don’t belong to any sect, or who have removed sectarian affiliations from their official documents.
According to Qortbawi, approving the case of Succariyeh and Darwish will allow any other similar couple to have a civil marriage in Lebanon.
“According to the committee’s ruling, couples will be able to hold their civil marriage contracts based on any civil law they choose, as long as such a law is approved by the Lebanese state,” said Qortbawi.
“Such civil law, for example, can be the law adopted in Turkey, Cyprus or France,” he added.
The two judges of the committee who attended the talks were Sami Mansour and Marwan Karkabi, while a third member of the committee, Judge Omar al-Natour, failed to attend the meeting as he is abroad, the NNA said.
Since the case of Succariyeh and Darwish came to light, reigniting the debate over civil marriage in the country, President Michel Sleiman has labeled the issue as very important step to overcome sectarian divisions in Lebanon.
Although the couple’s step was hailed by the president, Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani and the Higher Shiite Council have said they oppose the right for civil marriage in the country.
Christian leaders have appeared more relaxed over the issue, with the Council of Maronite Bishops saying civil and religious marriages can go hand in hand.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri also surprisingly came out in support of civil marriage. However, Prime Minister Najib Mikati has said it is not the right time or right political circumstances to discuss the matter.
In 1998, then President Elias Hrawi drafted a bill proposing optional civil marriage. The bill was approved by the Cabinet only to be shelved due to opposition from then Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and many of the country’s religious authorities.
Intermittent attempts to introduce civil marriage have since fallen on deaf ears.
On March 18, 2011, a number of NGOs and secularist organizations submitted a draft law on civil marriage to Parliament, but the proposal was never debated.