Amid an enduring political deadlock in Parliament, the first civil marriage contracted in Lebanon in 2013 received significant media coverage in a country where the personal status law of eighteen recognized religious sects governs marriage. This case study examines the debate on civil marriage reform and the implications for women’s rights in Lebanon. For advocates, the recognition of civil marriage legalizes interreligious marriages, strengthens secular citizenship, shifts the jurisdiction of marriage from religious to civil law, and ensures women’s rights. Opponents, meanwhile, fear the loss of religious autonomy, the transformation of self-identification in Lebanon from sect to nation, and the destabilization of the confessional system. To date, civil marriage reform has been incremental, given clerical and social opposition, but the winds of change are blowing as couples increasingly take matters into their own hands to reform Lebanon’s system of personal status from the ground up.

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