The first civil marriage in Lebanon: Launching a married life from the loophole to the marital and postmarital unknown
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Two Lebanese citizens were able to get "married" civilly. In Lebanon. The legal way for the Lebanese to get married civilly was and is to travel outside the country and marry civilly.
The Minister of the Interior Marwan Charbel has questioned the legality of this marriage and raised the key question of the legal vacuum that the couple would face had their marriage been a valid legal marriage under the laws of Lebanon.
The news of the "first civil marriage in Lebanon" was received with irrational exuberance as if this were the be all end all of all Lebanese agony. The supporters of civil marriage have it as an article of faith that needs no proof that civil marriage strengthens the national identity of the Lebanese.
There was no consideration of the implications of such a marriage if it were legal. Family law goes beyond the issue of the marriage itself. There are numerous related issues- birth and registration of the children, divorce, custody, marital property, etc. In Lebanon, all these matters are decided according to the relevant personal status laws of the different faith communities in Lebanon. Many marriages end in divorce. Divorce is a reality if it were to happen that couple would find themselves in a legal vacuum. Under which law would they divorce each other, determine custody, support, alimony? There is no civil law to deal with these real issues.
Also, there is the issue of probate law. In Lebanon, unlike in the US for example, probate of estates is considered a personal status matter that is under the jurisdiction of the various religious courts. Even though young people don't expect it but people die- at all ages. What happens if the husband, the wife or both die?
An optional civil marriage requires that the parliament pass laws dealing with all these issues independently from the religious courts. Until then only the religious courts regulate the marital relationship and its consequences. It is highly unlikely that the parliament would write such laws.
Even though the exuberant couple thought that they pulled a fast one on the Lebanese confessional system- the system has the last laugh.