Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is pushing to change the law in Israel to allow civil unions, including between gays and lesbians, an official said Monday.
The purpose of the ministerial proposal, currently in the form of a memorandum, is "to legislate an official status for the union of couples for joint life, which reflects their will to live together, have a family life and joint household, without marrying according to personal law as applied in Israel."
The memorandum was circulated to lawmakers and the public on Sunday to enable comments and changes for three weeks before it could be introduced as a bill.
A justice ministry official told AFP the proposal was worded to enable unions between homosexuals and other couples, who currently have no way to legally marry in Israel.
Marriage of Jews in Israel is currently controlled by the Chief Rabbinate, and Jews who wish to marry in a civil union must do so outside of Israel and then have it recognised by the interior ministry.
Signup to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
Civil unions are currently only applicable for a small group of people defined as "without religion" -- mainly immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were received in Israel by the state but whose Judaism was not recognised by the rabbinate.
The first serious obstacle Livni's proposal would face on the way to becoming a law would be the ministerial committee on legislation, where it could be voted down by conservative and religious ministers from the coalition.
Haaretz newspaper quoted sources from the religious Jewish Home far-right party, which is part of the coalition, as expressing surprise over the nature of Livni's proposal.
A similar proposal is being crafted by secular coalition partner Yesh Atid, Haaretz said.
On Sunday, ministers voted down a private bill by opposition MP Stav Shaffir of Labour aimed at legalising gay marriage.