Lebanon Witnesses First Ever Civil Wedding Ceremony in Its History

By Salma Elshebeiny

Many Lebanese citizens, in a country of 18 religious denominations controlling matrimony and divorce, have been calling for the legal recognition of civil marriage through many campaigns for decades. Famously, they waved flyers with “Civil Marriage Not Civil War” written on them.

During one of the campaigns, they spoke out against sectarianism and proposed allowing couples of different religious backgrounds to officially marry in Lebanon. Not only was this local campaign titled ‘Civil Love’, but it also became a symbol for encouraging people to marry outside of their religious affiliation.

The proposal by former President Elias Hrawi in 1998 permitted civil unions exclusively overseas. Two years ago, new legislation was proposed by the Beirut Bar Association to officially recognise civil marriage in Lebanon. Many similar draft laws have been introduced to parliament over the decades. Newly appointed Minister of Interior, Rayya El-Hassan, announced last week that she advocated the endorsement of civil marriage, yet it did not lead to any change to the law.

In spite of several previous attempts to push authorities to provide state-sanctioned civil unions in Lebanon, they were never approved in fear of backlash from conservatives and traditionalists.

Accordingly, since the Lebanese government only recognizes civil marriages if they have been registered outside of Lebanon, many mixed-belief couples are left with one of two options: to either travel abroad to neighboring countries like Cyprus and come back with the foreign marriage certificate; or separate.

On June 15th, the bold, rebellious couple, Muslim-born Abdullah Salam and Marie-Joe Abi-Nassif, broke tradition and ignored the definite shock and controversy that it was to surely cause after having their wedding in Lebanon with their friends and families.

The ceremony was held at the Sursock Palace in Beirut and was presided over by Joseph Beshara, who is the head of the Public Notaries Council of Lebanon. Not only was former parliament speaker Hussein al-Husseini present, but also ex-ministers Ziad Baroud and Tarek Mitri.

It is no doubt that the couple have achieved the incomprehensible, declaring love against all odds.

WE SAID THIS: Always expect the unexpected because anything is bound to happen in this world.