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By Nathan JeffayReprinted from The Forward
As New York prepares to inaugurate same-sex marriage on July 24, two men married to each other 5,500 miles away are fighting a battle for the rights of Jewish men and women in Israel who take advantage of the new law and others like it.Just as every Jew has the right to immigrate to Israel and receive citizenship under the Law of Return, so does his or her “spouse,” even if that spouse is not Jewish. But whether Israel would honor this for same-sex as well as heterosexual couples has never been tested.Now, an American Jewish man has given Israel’s Interior Ministry, which is controlled by the Haredi Shas party, a July 31 deadline to give his husband citizenship. The couple’s alternative is a high court petition for citizenship, which legal experts believe will likely succeed.This has made Joshua Goldberg furious. His local Jewish Agency office told him that his husband, Bayardo Alvarez, could have citizenship, but when the couple’s visas came through in February, Goldberg received citizenship, yet Alvarez received only temporary residency.The two married four years ago in Canada and moved to Israel from Baltimore on June 10, but the Interior Ministry has yet to respond to Alvarez’s 4-month-old appeal to change his status to citizen. “The lack of decision making at the Interior Ministry has made our absorption here very difficult, and in some ways it feels very unwelcoming,” Goldberg told the Forward.The Interior Ministry responded in a statement to questions from the Forward, saying that the matter is still “under examination” because this is the first request of its kind. The ministry added that it regrets the “mental anguish” that the uncertainty is causing the couple.There is no same-sex marriage in Israel, but the state does recognize, for some administrative purposes, same-sex marriages performed overseas. In 2006, Israel’s high court issued a precedent-setting ruling that five gay couples already residing in Israel but wed overseas could be registered as married couples in Israel.