JERUSALEM, July 27 (UPI) -- Israel's Parliament maintained the religious monopoly on marriage Wednesday, rejecting a civil alternative.
"Israel is the only democracy in the world where Jews don't have freedom of religion," said leftist member Nitzan Horowitz, a sponsor of the measure. "There are currently hundreds of thousands of Israelis who are considered without religion and cannot marry in Israel."
But Justice Minister Yaacov Neeman said the bill violated "the norm in Israel since the establishment of the state," which placed marriage and divorce for Jews under Jewish religious law.
Neeman warned that if people married under Jewish law were allowed to divorce without a rabbinical court, the wives would become unable to remarry and the children bastards.
"This bill is an offense to the unity of the Jewish people," he said.
Centrist member Orit Zuaretz spoke wearing a white wedding dress but was forced to remove her veil.
"This bill isn't against anything, rather aimed at expanding the current arrangement, alongside Judaism, to those who cannot marry according to Jewish law. Some 3,500 Israelis marry in Cyprus each year; we need an alternative," she said.