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Israel: Naturalization Procedures for Gay and Non-Gay Partners to Be Harmonized

(Dec. 9, 2016) On December 8, 2016, Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, announced that the government would make the procedures for naturalization of gay partners of Israeli nationals the same as those for non-gay partners.  Mandelblit’s announcement was made in response to a petition filed with the High Court of Justice by the Israeli Gay Fathers Association (GFA).  (Telem Yahav, Attorney General Approved an Historic Change: Equality for Gay Couples in Acquiring Citizenship, YNET (Dec. 8, 2016) (in Hebrew); Mor Shimoni, Israel to Ease Citizenship Process for Same-Sex Couples, JERUSALEM POST (Dec. 8, 2016.)

According to the petition, the state has applied differential treatment with regard to naturalization of gay Israelis who marry foreign nationals abroad.  Specifically, the GFA argued that the state implements faster procedures for heterosexual couples, usually requiring the foreign spouse to spend a four-year waiting period in Israel for naturalization, instead of the seven-year period required for gay partners who marry Israeli nationals abroad.  In addition, at the end of the process, gay spouses must give up their foreign nationality, while heterosexual spouses are permitted to retain it.  (Yahav, supra; Shimoni, supra; Handling the Status of Partners of Israeli Citizens, Including Same-Sex Partners, Guideline No. 5.2.0009 (Oct. 7, 2013), Israel Government Portal (in Hebrew).)

Having decided that it would harmonize the naturalization procedures applicable to gay couples and heterosexual ones, the state specified that the new procedure would only affect the process of naturalization of gay partners and would not affect the non- recognition of same-sex marriages conducted in Israel.  (Yahav, supra.)