This week, Lebanon’s top Sunni cleric, Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, fired back, blasting the effort to ‘‘plant the germ of civil marriage in Lebanon’’ with a religious edict declaring any Muslim official who participated in its legalization an ‘‘apostate.’’
Such officials will ‘‘bear the sins of any Muslim sons or daughters who enter into this illegal relationship until judgment day,’’ he said.
Christian leaders have been less outspoken, although they have opposed such laws in the past.
Father Abdo Abou Kassm, director of the Catholic Media Center, said the church recognizes only religious marriages, and that those married elsewhere can’t participate in sacraments like baptism or communion until they right themselves.
He said if civil marriage became legal in Lebanon, the church would follow the laws, but noted that other personal status issues like divorce and inheritance are also handled by religious authorities. Changing that would require a host of new laws that he said are unlikely to pass.
‘‘To do this would mean separating religion from the state, and I don’t think you can do that in Lebanon,’’ he said.
Most doubt the couple’s marriage will be approved or that Lebanese politicians will push to legislate civil marriage. No one has proposed such a law since 1998, and Prime Minister Najib Miqati has dismissed the issue as too divisive to address at this time.
Paul Salem of the Carnegie Middle East Center said religious authorities would fiercely oppose any such law because officiating marriages and divorces preserves their influence in society and earns them money.
‘‘Civil marriage is a break in all of those dikes,’’ he said. ‘‘It really is a test case for how the sectarian system protects itself.’’