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Lebanon's First Civil Marriage A Sign of Change

On April 25, 2013, the first civil marriage was officially registered in Lebanon, a move that could forebode a radical change in the longstanding political sectarian system, writes Jean Aziz.
A man kisses a woman as they hold up a placard during a protest demanding to legalize civil marriage in Lebanon, at Martyrs' square in downtown Beirut February 4, 2013. Lebanese laws do not recognise civil marriages conducted in Lebanon. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi   (LEBANON - Tags: CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3DCHX
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Months after the contract was signed [Oct. 10, 2012], the Lebanese Interior Ministry agreed on April 25, 2013, to register the first civil marriage contract "made in Lebanon." The issue does not end here for some religious officials, particularly those from the Sunni community. It also does not end here for activists defending human rights and civil society in Lebanon. It is a step that will be recorded in the history of Lebanon's political, legal and constitutional system, as will the names of those involved: Kholoud Sukkarieh and Nidal Darwish.

For the first time since 1936, when the French Mandate governing Lebanon instituted sectarian personal status laws in Lebanon, two Lebanese citizens were able to conduct a civil marriage on Lebanese territory — without being forced to resort to a religious authority, among the 18 authorities spread over the 18 legally recognized religious sects. 

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