Lebanon's Justice Ministry rejected a request to legalize civil marriage Monday.
The Justice Ministry said that a comprehensive law needs to be drawn up by lawmakers before civil marriage can be approved.
“The Interior Ministry referred the marriage request to the Justice Ministry’s advisory panel, which studied the request and did not approve on it due to the absence of a law that regulates civil marriage,” Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told An-Nahar newspaper, reported the Al Arabiya.
Charbel said that he supports civil marriage but his ministry could not deem marriages outside religious institutions official without the law.
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Civil marriage has long been a sticking point in Lebanon with secular politicians supporting it while the religious authorities in the country in opposition, said the Daily Star.
Lebanon's president Michel Suleiman came out in support of civil marriage on Sunday, stating that it would be an example for the rest of the Middle East where it is banned.
“We should work on drafting a civil marriage law. It is a very important step in eradicating sectarianism and solidifying national unity,” Suleiman wrote in Arabic and English on his Facebook page, reported Gulf News.
Lebanon remains a highly sectarian country with 18 different religious communities, mainly Christian and Muslim.
Traditional marriage has meant that intermarriage among the groups is rare and must be carried out abroad, mostly in nearby Cyprus.