Despite numerous attempts to permit civil marriage ceremonies in Lebanon, starting with the first bill introduced back in the early 1950s, all efforts ended up in vain. Needless to say, civil marriage remains to this day a topic of controversy in a country where the existing religious denominations have sole authority on the unions and divorces of the Lebanese people of their communities.
That situation has been highly problematic in the country for ages, forcing hard choices on individuals wanting to marry from a different religious denomination: Abstain from marrying the love of their life, or convert to the denomination of the other and marry under the laws of that denomination.
For the Lebanese people, known to live by their faith, the decision is excruciating, and too many have been the loving couples forced to break apart.
Hence, when we hear that a civil marriage has been performed, officially, in Lebanon, we are all ears and eyes to know how that could have possibly been, and who is the brave couple who managed it when most haven't since as long as Lebanon could remember.
This is exactly what happened a few days ago, on June 15th, when Lebanon witnessed the union between Abdullah Salam and Marie-Joe Abi-Nassif as the young couple took their vows.
The civil ceremony took place at the Sursock Palace in Beirut and was presided over by the head of the Public Notaries Council, Joseph Beshara, with the attendance of special guests such as former parliament speaker Hussein al-Husseini and ex-ministers Ziad Baroud and Tarek Mitri.
Ever since the unforgettable proposal by late President Elias Hrawi, concerning the legalization of civil marriage in 1998, the proposal then allowed Lebanese citizens to perform civil unions.... offshore only.
Controversially as it sounds, once these marriages are performed abroad, they can then get legalized in Lebanon.
As of 2013, former Minister of Interior Marwan Charbel approved several civil unions in Lebanon; yet, on which basis some are allowed and some aren't is unclear and unstated. Which begs the question: Shouldn't any civil law be favorable to all citizens equally?
Activism is still ongoing in that regard in Lebanon. People are still demanding their rights for civil marriage. Just a few months ago, on Feb 23rd, Beirut witnessed a protest demanding such law, near the Ministry of Interior.
For over a decade now, it has been easier for interdenominational Lebanese couples to travel abroad to ensure their marriage and then come back home with the foreign certificate of marriage in hand, and submit it through the process of legalization or, as legally called: validation.
Abdullah Salam and Marie-Joe Abi-Nassif, both of them successful lawyers, insisted instead to marry in Lebanon among their families and friends. After all, marriages in Lebanon are long-awaited family affairs done a la granda.
They, hence, dared the impossible and received the government official approval to marry in Lebanon and be married by a Lebanese civil authority.
With that being said, their marriage stands out as one of the few memorable ceremonies of which love surpassed controversy and challenged the odds.
We wish the newly-weds all happiness, and to Lebanon similar rights equally to all.