I Take You to Be My [Religiously] Wedded Wife:
The Prospect of Civil Marriage and Personality Law Expanding in the Levant
22 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2017
Date Written: May 10, 2017
The lack of civil marriage in Lebanon has been an ongoing problem facing young couples hoping to escape the default religious laws that are applied to their marriage. Offering a voluntary, secular alternative to the jurisdiction of the various religious courts of the millet system would benefit the nation immensely. Such an act could depressurize much of the religious tension and strife, as well as help to break down barriers that keep the Lebanese constitutional mandate of ending the confessional system from being realized. Most importantly, however, it would provide an equal set of laws for men and women, rather than the often unequal rights favoring men under the auspices of a religious court. It would no longer force unwilling participants to travel to other countries in order to have their union made. This paper offers a comparison with other nations in the Levant, namely Israel and Egypt, and reviews past attempts at reform of personality law in Lebanon in an attempt to determine what are the best options for seeing secular marriage realized in Lebanon. A reform providing secular non-marital personality law (trust & estates) might be the easiest route to laying track for a secular marriage future. In the alternative, a marital reform that compensates the religious systems whenever secular marriages are performed and is advocated for by a cross-sectional movement of civil marriage supporters, LBGTQ activists, women's rights activists, and growing religious minorities, would possibly have the balance of incentive and pressure necessary to navigate the complexities of the political system in Lebanon.
Keywords: Comparative Law, Personality Law, Human Rights, Lebanon, Marriage, Gender Equality, Trust and Estates
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