Whenever I write about the Lebanese rumpus over civil marriage, I have to keep reminding myself that it really is aboutcivil marriage and not gay marriage. The opponents of civil marriage in Lebanon are exactly the types you would expect to find in other countries opposing gay marriage – it's just that what shocks them in Lebanon is the prospect of two people (one male, one female, of course) getting married, if they so choose, in a non-religious ceremony.
On Monday, the Grand Mufti of Lebanon issued a fatwathreatening to excommunicate any member of parliament or government minister who supports the legalisation of civil marriage, "even if it is optional".
Yesterday, Lebanese MP Samir Gemayel hit back at the mufti,
according to the Daily Star:
Speaking to reporters in Parliament, Gemayel said: “The mufti’s comments are a violation of the civil state and every Lebanese person’s right which is stipulated in the Constitution.”
“It is a violation of a person’s right to practise their beliefs, convictions and freedom of expression. It is the right of any Lebanese to abide by religion or not and we believe that any violation to that right is a violation of the constitution.”
Meanwhile, President Sleiman and Prime Minister Mikati are at odds over the issue. Sleiman says the issue "should be thoroughly addressed in a manner that does not offend any side". He told a cabinet meeting that failure to tackle it was a violation of the Taif Accord (the 1989 agreement that ended the civil war and called for the abolition of sectarianism).
Mikati, on the other hand, says civil marriage is too sensitive an issue and will not be addressed while he is prime minister.
Sleiman has also called on the interior minister to "verify the legality" of the controversial civil marriage contract signed last November by Khouloud Sukkariyeh and Nidal Darwish. So far, government officials have refused to recognise the contract as valid.
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 30 January 2013.