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Newly elected MPs bring back debate about civil marriage in Lebanon

The positions of some new legislators in favor of civil unions to be performed in the Mediterranean country have outraged religious authorities.
Kholoud Sukkarieh (R) and Nidal Darwish, who got married in defiance of the ban on civil unions, walk past Pigeon Rock, Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 25, 2013.

BEIRUT — Nay El Rahi has been fighting for women’s rights in Lebanon for years. One of the historic demands of the Lebanese feminist movement is the legalization of civil marriage in the country. As a researcher, Rahi has also studied this topic throughout her career. So when it was time for her and her partner to tie the knot, they knew the only way to do it was through a civil union. But since civil marriages are not allowed in Lebanon, they had to fly to Cyprus.

“I wouldn’t have gone to Cyprus if I had been able to do that here, because we are from different religions and we are both seculars,” Rahi told Al-Monitor. Marriages in Lebanon are traditionally performed through a religious authority, depending on the religious sect. For interfaith marriages, one of the partners has to convert to the faith of the other spouse. In a country where “religion is politicized,” according to Rahi, civil marriage is a very controversial topic.

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