Israel's Attorney General Gives Boost to Homosexual Couples

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel's Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has given a legal boost to homosexual couples in financial and property matters.

Israel's homosexual community, like many others, is battling for social acceptance and what it considers its civil rights under the law.

Recently, a local family court criticized the state's objection to a financial agreement between male partners to share responsibility for the child of one of the men. But on Wednesday, Mazuz issued a statement saying he had taken "a different approach regarding recognition of same-sex couples" than his predecessor, Eliyakim Rubinstein, did.

"The attorney general's basic approach is that with regard to recognizing partnerships between members of the same sex, one must distinguish between financial and other practical arrangements, in which the tendency should be practical and flexible, in the spirit of the times and of changing circumstances; and issues involving the creation of a new statutory status requiring a more cautions approach which, in general, should be left to parliament to decide," Mazuz wrote.

His "approach" implies that homosexual couples have certain rights in family matters, property taxes, and matters of inheritance.

The approach became evident earlier this year in the case of Adir Steiner and Tzach Granit. The state declined to contest an appeal the couple had filed over a lower court ruling, which rejected their request not to pay purchase tax for transferring the ownership of a home from one partner to the other.

Under Israeli law, the purchase tax is waived when a home is transferred from one partner to the other of a married or common-law couple.

Mazuz also cited the case of a Nazareth District Court decision allowing the surviving member of a homosexual couple to inherit the estate of the deceased as long as it was not willed to someone else.

Mazuz said that the state would not appeal the decision in that specific case involving a couple that had been together for nearly 40 years before one partner died.

Lawmaker Roman Bronfman of the Yahad party was quoted by Ha'aretz as saying that the decision was a landmark for the homosexual community because it had expanded the definition of the "family unit."

Acceptance of homosexuality in Israel varies from city to city.

In Tel Aviv, the mayor's office has a liaison to the homosexual community, while in Jerusalem both former Mayor Ehud Olmert and current Mayor Uri Lupolianski have sought to prevent homosexual events from taking place in their city.

The Jerusalem Open House, a homosexual advocacy center, is sponsoring the second-ever worldwide GayPride event in Jerusalem scheduled for next summer.

Lupolianski has gone on record as saying that he is opposed to the WorldPride 2005 event being held in Jerusalem for fear that conservative and religious groups will view the event as a provocation and launch massive protests against it.

Many Jerusalem residents say they oppose such an event, but there has not been any grassroots uproar over it yet.

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