Lebanons first request for civil marriage rejected: interior minister

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Lebanon’s Justice Ministry rejected a request to legalize civil marriages, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said.

“The Interior Ministry referred the marriage request to the Justice Ministry’s advisory panel, which studied the request and did not approve on it due to the absence of a law that regulates civil marriage,” Charbel told An-Nahar newspaper in an interview published Monday.

“Any similar request will not be [approved],” the minister added, urging for a new law that regulates civil marriage.

“There must be a [law] to regulate the personal status, marriage and divorce as well inheritance and other similar issues.”

However, Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi told the paper that he was unaware of the advisory panel’s rejection of the civil marriage request.

“I am not updated on the issue’s details, but I support optional civil marriage in principle,” Qortbawi said.

“If there are no [laws] pertaining to civil marriage, I support finding such laws as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on Sunday expressed support for a law allowing for civil marriage, currently illegal in the country, saying it will help build unity in the multi-faith Middle Eastern country.

“We should work on drafting a civil marriage law. It is a very important step in eradicating sectarianism and solidifying national unity,” Sleiman wrote in Arabic and English on his Facebook page.

His views appeared alongside a photo of a man carrying his daughter on his shoulders at a rally. She is seen holding a stuffed animal and a sign reading “civil marriage, not civil war.”

After only four hours online, Sleiman’s post garnered more than 1,700 likes and provoked a string of comments, overwhelmingly in favor of the law.

Famed Lebanese singer Elissa tweeted: “Might civil marriage encourage our politicians not to hide behind their fingers and enrich diversity in our beloved country.”

Despite a long-running campaign by civil groups, such weddings still have no legal basis in Lebanon, a tiny country of around four million people who belong to 18 different religious communities, mainly Christian and Muslim.

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