The uproar against the establishment of Civil Marriage in Lebanon often portrays Civil Marriage as an attack against Religion. Secular family law is frequently misinterpreted as Atheism or as an attempt at the eradication of religion. This couldn’t be further from reality, nor is the institution of Civil Marriage about denying the rights of religious people. Civil Marriage, apart from being cost-effective, is the most pragmatic form of marriage and management of inheritance. It is inter-religious, inter-cultural, and where different religions (or absence of religion) are being followed by a man and woman, it is an optional law that covers everyone, equally.
It is common knowledge that most people make acquaintances from across all backgrounds at the workplace, in educational settings and at various social events. Naturally, some of these connections grow emotionally close and at some point, a couple may desire to become married. For those who aren’t religious, or who don’t share the same religion or sect, the question arises, how? The couple can not approach their Holy Men, since it’s obligatory for one of them to convert or raise the children born into the union within a specific religious fold.
Let me point out that Lebanon is a signatory of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (ironically co-written by a Lebanese diplomat Charles Malek), which states under Article 16:
“Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.”
And under the Lebanese constitution it states;
“Lebanon is also a founding and active member of the United Nations Organization and abides by its covenants and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Government shall embody these principles in all fields and areas without exception.”
The only way to allow a couple equal access under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is to adopt a civil marriage law in Lebanon where the only substantial conditions to be met are the age and mental fitness of the two concerned parties. Religious affiliation, if any, would not be a matter of Civil Marriage, but rather, would be a private affair.
When you give your citizens the authority to make their own choices and shape their own lives, the entire society benefits, and not to be bound into a religious system (which protectively guard religious law as a cradle of power) for their entire lives and even after death. It’s my firm belief that religion is not under attack, nor civil marriage will abolish religious rights, rather, the assurance of it allows for a diverse religious freedom which is most viable in a secular society. Maybe in the near future we will cease to be classified and divided as Sunnis. Maronites, Shiites, Druze, but finally see ourselves united as Lebanese. I believe Civil Marriage is one of vital first steps towards such a society.