Gay Israeli's Partner Refused Citizenship

An Interior Ministry regulation prevents the same-sex partners of Israeli citizens from receiving Israeli citizenship. The ministry’s Population Registry tells the couples they will have to settle for permanent residency status only.

One such couple married in Canada, and is recognized as a married couple in the Population Registry. But the non-Israeli half of the couple is barred from receiving citizenship due to a regulation that defines a married couple as consisting of a man and a woman. One consequence is that the couple is recognized as being married when it comes to paying taxes and the like, but not when it comes to applying for and receiving social benefits.

Maayan Zafrir, an Israeli citizen, met Felipe Javier Episcopo, of Uruguay over the Internet in 1998. In 2001, after meeting several times in Israel and in Uruguay, Javier Episcopo moved to Israel to start life together as a couple. They began the process of having Javier Episcopo recognized as Zafrir’s common-law partner. Javier Episcopo received a visa and a work permit upon arrival in Israel. He was granted temporary residency in 2005.

The couple married, in Canada, in 2008, and returned to Israel. They submitted their wedding certificate to the Interior Ministry, which changed their status in the Population Registry and in their identity cards to reflect their married status.

Zafrir and Javier Episcopo are the parents of two-year-old twins.

In July 2009 Zafrir and Javier Episcopo applied for full recognition as a married couple, rather than as a common-law couple. A Population Registry said they would have to wait a year before their request was approved - an odd statement, considering that on the one hand that for citizenship purposes Israeli law defines a married couple as a man and a women, while on the other hand there is no such waiting period for couples consisting of a man and a woman.

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