I never thought I would live to see my dream come true, an actual civil marriage in
Lebanon. I am not talking about a theatrical act resembling a marriage, I am not talking about a Lebanese couple who get married in Cyprus and perform their wedding ceremony in Lebanon.
I am talking about an actual, “so-far legal” (read further to understand), Civil Marriage that has come to be known as the First Legal Civil Marriage in Lebanon.
Kholoud Succariyeh and Nidal Darwish are now the talk of the town as their names are on every media outlet, social media outlet and secular activists in the country. Now Media (a.k.a Now Lebanon) had the scoop for the story, for the full story click here.
So is Civil Marriage now an option in Lebanon?
According to lawyer Talal Husseini, it has always been an option. It was only a matter of discovering the loophole in the system (and many are those) and then following the legal procedures to ensure that the system supports the marriage.
It is all based on what the French left us, and luckily enough the Lebanese have not been smart enough to update their laws. This legal “loophole” stems from article 25 of Decree 60 L.R. (Laws and regulations) of 1936, made under the French mandate, which allows citizens to have a civil marriage outside Lebanon. This law provides for the creation of a common law community. Consequently, all those who do not belong to a community, or who wish to leave the community in which they were born, can adhere to a “non-community community” or “civil law community”. This community can organize and administer its personal status within the limits of civil legislation.
Talal Husseini, who authored the draft and assisted Khouloud and Nidal, states the following:
“The marriage was held based on Decree No. 60 L.R. – a numeration of decrees adopted by the High Commissioner [during the French Mandate in Lebanon] – of 1936, which organizes and recognizes sects and grants them rights. The same decree also recognizes individuals, and we used this same law to strike out the reference to sect [on one’s ID].”
Applying Decree No. 60 L.R. for people who are not officially affiliated to any sect provides a solution for civil marriage, he added. “Not being affiliated to a sect does not mean not being a believer; it is merely not making an administrative disclosure of one’s sect and subjecting [instead] to civil courts.”
Is Civil Marriage an act of atheism?
The last sentence stated by Talal is very important to those who oppose civil rights in Lebanon. Adhering to civil law does not mean that someone gives up their religious beliefs and becomes an atheist with no values. Khouloud herself says:
Secularism is not against religion. Nidal and I are not against religious marriage and we actually did our religious (كتب كتاب ) but did not register our marriage at the religious institution. We chose civil marriage because we believe it is the best expression of a relationship built on true partnership, equality and rejection of dependency. ( for an interview with Kholoud and Nidal, check the video below)
Is Civil Marriage now possible for everyone?
Be aware that the headlines, just like mine, are catchy enough to tell you half the story. The request is now in the hands of the Consultations Committee at the Ministry of the Interior pending its official announcement. With the political elitists currently engaging in one of the most divisive sectarian discussions of all times,I highly doubt that this will go through without a fight, as this will open the door to hundreds of Lebanese waiting to take such a step.
How does Civil Marriage affect me as a believer?
Civil marriage is a right for those who do not believe, or have different beliefs but cannot marry in the current Lebanese System since one of them has to convert. Civil marriage does not oppose the beliefs of Christians and Muslims their holy sacraments, not does it jeopardize their right to marry under the umbrella of the religious institution they belong to. This is not my opinion, for I had a previous blog post that has the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al Rai declaring his approval and support for Civil Marriage in Lebanon. I apologize that it is in Arabic, but the interview is in Lebanese Dialect for those who do understand it. I do not have on record any Lebanese Muslim clergy supporting civil Marriage, but I did find Sheikh Kassim El Hakeem discussing Islam’s point of view on civil marriage part of his Q&A on Youtube.
What are the steps for Civil Marriage in Lebanon?
According to the procedure followed by Kholoud and Nidal, as described by the previously referenced article on Now Media, here is a step by step summary of the process:
- Strike out the mention of both of your sects from your respective Civil Status Records (إخراج قيد in Lebanon) to prove before the law that you are not affiliated with a sect that forces either of you to marry before a religious court. Thus you acquire the right to hold a civil marriage as per Article 60 L.R.
- Obtain a form signed by the mayor (مختار) proving that there are no objections to your marriage. Announce the marriage in public 15 days before the wedding date. Such an announcement could be published in the Official Gazette or at least two newspapers. Further investigation might be required for this step.
- Sign legal marriage documents, also referred to in judicial terms as the contract. You need a legal document signed by a notary public (كاتب عدل ) where both parties agree to the articles included and that they decide to include.
For the story in Arabic, click here.
The topic of civil marriage is not new, it dates back to 1951 and a law mandating civil personal status was passed by the Lebanese parliament on 6/2/98 proposed by President Elias Herawi, only to be buried in the drawers of the Lebanese cabinet headed by the late Rafik Hariri back then. For history on the topic of civil marriage and civil status of women in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Jordan, click here.