“I do not see a distinction between Jews in heterosexual marriage and those who wed in same-sex marriages abroad in accordance with the law,” Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar wrote in his letter to the Population and Immigration Authority.
“Both fulfill the purpose of the Law of Return according to the principle that ‘The children will return to their land,’” he said, quoting a biblical reference to the return of Jews from the exile.
In recent years there have been several cases in which a same-sex couples comprised of a Jew and a non-Jew, married legally in their country of origin – usually the US – had sought to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return where every Jew is entitled to immigrate to Israel and gain Israeli citizenship, according to jpost.com.
Clause 4a of the law stipulates that the Right of Return is also applicable to the partner of Jews exercising this right.
However, attorney Nicole Maor, who works for the Israel Religious Action Center, told jpost.com there have been several requests by such couples in the past five months that are still pending.
This is largely because Israeli law does not as yet recognize marriages between same-sex couples.
Maor pointed out that the Law of Return specifies only the partner of a Jew, and not the couple’s sexual orientation.
It is hoped that Sa’ar’s letter published Aug 12 instructing the Population and Immigration Authority and the Jewish Agency to grant Israeli citizenship to the spouse of any Jew, regardless of the sexual orientation of the couple, will now officially state that position.
Maor welcomed the minister’s decision and expressed the hope Israel be “open to considering the plight of single-sex couples who are unable to get married as well.”
Ultra-Orthodox groups against equality laws and marriage among same-sex couples have reacted critically.
“This wretched decision will have a boomerang effect against the intentions of Sa’ar who wants to ‘bring back the children to their land,’ and many good Jews will be disgusted by the state and will be distanced from the Land of Israel,” Meir Porush from United Torah Judaism was quoted as saying in the jpost.com report.
“The Law of Return has long abandoned the criteria of the Jewish religious tradition in defining a Jew, and so it isn’t surprising that Mr. Sa’ar should equally abandon the Jewish definition of a marriage,” said Avi Shafran, spokesperson for Agudath Yisrael of America.