Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the state’s appeal against registering civil marriages performed online through the U.S. state of Utah.
The ruling directs the Population and Immigration Authority within the Interior Ministry to register these marriages, which are generally conducted via Zoom or Skype as an alternative to a religious ceremony conducted through the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
These “Utah marriages” became popular after a 2020 rule change in the U.S. state made marriages conducted via videoconferencing software legal as long as at least one participant or the officiant was physically present in the state.
The COVID-19 pandemic made these marriages even more popular when Israelis could not travel abroad for civil marriages. Traditionally, many Israelis traveled to Cyprus for civil ceremonies. And the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi recently registered the first marriage of an Israeli couple.
Around 600 Israeli couples have gotten married in Utah Zoom weddings in the past three years. They include members of the LGBT community, interfaith couples and others not recognized by the Chief Rabbinate.
The state’s appeal followed a petition by the NGO Hiddush—For Religious Freedom and Equality along with eight couples who married online through Utah.
“We welcome the ruling of the Supreme Court, which opens another channel of marriage for the citizens and residents of Israel. The State of Israel is the only Western democracy in the world that denies its citizens the freedom of marriage due to the demand of the religious parties,” Rabbi Uri Regev, CEO of Hiddush, said.
MK Moshe Arbel of Shas slammed the decision.
“The Supreme Court’s recognition on Purim of civil marriages performed over the Zoom app is a sad joke at the expense of all of Israel’s religious and traditional citizens, and expresses more than anything the desire to advance the values of a ‘state of all its citizens’ and erase the Jewish identity of the state,” said Arbel.