Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Civil Marriage in Israel?


Recipients and Publicity forwarded YNet

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger says Rabbinate to convene Thursday to discuss controversial issue, but pledges it will not permit mixed marriages

PARIS – The Chief Rabbinate's Council will convene on Thursday to discuss the subject of civil marriage, Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said on Wednesday. This will be the first time that the Rabbinate will discuss halachic solutions for non-religious marriage.

However, Metzger stressed that the rabbis will only exchange views and are not expected to make a decision on the matter. He spoke during the annual conference of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE) in Paris.

In his speech Metzger referred to the issue that has become one of the hot topics in the recent election campaign, and commented on the rabbis' involvement in the matter. "This has been deliberated by the great sages of Israel, and I know that both Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Rabbi Elyashiv have addressed it. But they haven't given their permission to anything."

The chief rabbi promised that in nay case, the council will not support mixed marriages, and said: "They (the Yisrael Beiteinu party) want a Jew and a non-Jew to be allowed to marry, and this will certainly not be permitted by anyone. It's inconceivable to have mixed marriages approved by a rabbi in Israel. We will do everything in order to keep the spirit of Israel holy.

"If God forbid we will do something against the Halacha or without the consent of the great sages of Israel – we will be dividing the nation," he added.

Rabbi Lau: Jews plagues by mixed marriages

On Monday, at the opening of the convention, Tel Aviv Rabbi Yisrael Lau harshly criticized Avigdor Lieberman's civil marriage drive and said that mix marriages were "the terrible catastrophe that is plaguing the people of Israel in the world today." [...]

10 comments :

  1. "They(the Yisrael Beiteinu party) want a Jew and a non-Jew to be allowed to marry, and this will certainly not be permitted by anyone. It's inconceivable to have mixed marriages approved by a rabbi in Israel..."

    Civil marriage, by definition, does not seek "approval" by any rabbi.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Actually, in Morocco for example, civil marriages between a Muslim woman and a non Muslim are not permitted. Muslim men can marry non Muslim women because the children automatically follow the religion of the father.

    In Morocco, the civil marriage is used to register citizenship, paternity etc. The religious marriage is separate. But either way, a civil marriage between a Muslim woman and a non Muslim man is not permittied to be registered for example.

    Israel could follow the example of Morocco and other Muslim countries in registering civil marriages for citizenship and paternity purposes but still regulating who is permitted by law to marry.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Civil marriage, by definition, does not seek "approval" by any rabbi.

    The problem is, civil marriages among non-jews are not legal or recognized in the state of Israel.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Civil Marriages in Israel paradigm shift evident!

    Something's definitely afoot as Rav Amar, approved by Rav Ovadia Yosef, proposes legalizing civil marriages for all gentile marriages (when both parners are not Jews) in Israel. Rav Metzger hints that Ashkenazim will also go along as long as it's explicit that "mixed marriages" are excluded.

    Rav Bakshi Doron says civil marriage should be allowed for all situations because: (1) Forcing entire population to wed in a religious ceremony is contributing to the birth of children out of wedlock [mamzerus] (2) breaching of the various injunctions pertaining to married women in the scripture [adultery], and (3) pressure exerted on mixed couples to convert resulted in ill-performed conversions [gentiles].


    From Ynetnews.com:

    "Rabbis to meet faction heads on civil marriage

    Chief Rabbinate's council says Chief Rabbis Metzger, Amar will hold sit-down with various faction heads in Knesset in effort to broker acceptable solution to sensitive matter

    Kobi Nahshoni
    Published: 03.07.09, 15:58 / Israel Jewish Scene

    [Photo: Chief Rabbis Metzger (R) and Amar Photo: Alex Kolomoiski]

    The Chief Rabbinate's council called a meeting Thursday to discuss the rising debate on civil marriage, amplified by the recent coalition negotiations.

    Following the meeting, Chief Rabbis of Israel Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar have decided to meet with the various faction heads in the Knesset next week, including those of the secular parties, in an attempt to broker an acceptable compromise on the highly charged subject.

    All matters pertaining to matrimony in Israel are handled by the religious establishment, and the practice of civil marriage is not sanctioned by the State.

    The only halachic solution currently considered acceptable by the religious establishment is the one suggested by Rabbi Amar, namely to allow only non-Jews living in Israel to wed in a civil ceremony.

    The proposal has been sanctioned by Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, but nevertheless, the Chief Rabbinate has yet to declare its official stand on the matter.

    Thursday's meeting was a first in the Chief Rabbinate's history, since it has never before even considered allowing any form of civil marriage in Israel.

    Rabbi Metzger, who also serves as chairman of the Rabbinate's council, was recently quoted as saying that "there are all kinds of notions on the matter. The greatest sages of Israel are debating the issue… but nothing has been decided yet."

    Any decision made, he added, would exclude mixed-marriages, since "they (Yisrael Beiteinu) demand the marriage of a Jew and a gentile be sanctioned, but no rabbi will ever allow such mixed marriages.

    "We will do all that we can to keep the sanctity of (the Jewish nature of) Israel and if we were – heaven forbid – to go against the Halacha or against the great sages – we may end up dividing the people."

    Former Chief Sephardi Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron, however, holds the minority view saying civil marriages in Israel should simply be allowed.

    Rabbi Bakshi Doron surprised the ultra-Orthodox community several years back, when he published as essay condoning civil marriages.

    Forcing the entire population to wed in a religious ceremony alone proved an impediment to many none-observing couples, he said, thus contributing to the birth of children out of wedlock – and more grievously – to the possible breaching of the various injunctions pertaining to married women in the scripture.

    Furthermore, he claimed that the pressure exerted over mixed couples to convert resulted in many ill-preformed conversions, done for the sake of the ceremony alone. Rabbi Bakshi Doron maintains his position today, as well."

    ReplyDelete
  5. Civil marriage between gentiles reportedly now permitted by leading poskim.

    A revolution in Israeli life and an evolution of attitudes.

    These are part of all-new agreements between Yisrael Beitienu and the Haredi parties in the course of coalition building as a result of the recent Israeli election of a right-wing/religiously dominated government headed by Netanyahu.

    Avigdor Lieberman proves himself to be a master tactitician and diplomat in negotiating with the Shas and UTJ parties as he convinces them of the unavoidable need of dealing with the non-Jews from Russia who cannot be, and should not be forced into accepting Orthodox conversions if they do not want to become Halachic Jews (which is anti-Halachic), and that Haredi and Orthodox interests are better served by ridding themselves of the burden of constant confrontation against secular Israelis.

    This will put EJF out of business in Israel once and for all.

    This paradigm shift in accepting limited civil marriages, for now among gentiles, will inevitably lead to allowing civil marriages for everyone. It is only a question of time as 20% of the population (belonging to Orthodoxy) cannot continue to hold down the remaining 80%.

    In turn, the need for requiring Orthodox conversions for all non-Halachic Jews/gentiles in Israel will become moot as the religious and secular/non-Orthodox sectors will go their own ways.

    This is basically a milestone rejection of Oriental-style religious coercion by adoption of a Western Model based on granting freedom of choice to choose one's lifestyle and between choosing to become Orthodox or being secular. Freedom of choice, bechira chofshis, is also fully sanctioned by the Torah.


    As reported on Vos Iz Neias.com:

    "Israel - Rabbi Elyashiv Allows Civil Marriage For non-Jews

    News Source: Ynet
    Published on: March 19th, 2009

    Israel - Over a month after the general elections, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the spiritual leader of the Lithuanian stream of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, ruled on the hot topic of the coalition negotiations – civil marriage.

    According to Rabbi Elyashiv, the Halacha allows instituting civil marriage in Israel for non-Jews only. Therefore, any couple wishing to wed through civil marriage will have to prove to a rabbinical court that both partners are not Jewish, this in order to prevent "legally sanctioned" assimilation.

    The rabbi stressed that civil marriage between Jews, or a mixed couples, was out of the question.

    The United Torah Judaism coalition negotiations team is expected to present this as a major demand to the Likud.

    The ruling was also authorized by the Gerrer Rebbe and Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman.

    Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has recently reached a compromise with the Yisrael Beiteinu party, according to which non-Jews will be allowed to hold civil marriage. However, the chief rabbi did not condition this on a rabbinical court approval."

    ReplyDelete
  6. Rav Eliashiv rules that civil marriage by two gentiles in Israel can only take place after approval from a bais din.

    Ruling tries to take a relative midle road that will appease the Russian and Haredi political parties for now, but it will not solve the broader debate about civil marriage for all.


    Here is the full above article as it appeared on Ynetnews.com:

    "Rabbi Elyashiv allows civil marriage for non-Jews

    Spiritual leader of Lithuanian stream rules non-Jews can wed through civil marriage, but only after rabbinical court confirms both partners are not Jewish

    Kobi Nahshoni
    Published: 03.19.09
    Israel Jewish Scene

    Over a month after the general elections, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the spiritual leader of the Lithuanian stream of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, ruled on the hot topic of the coalition negotiations – civil marriage.

    According to Rabbi Elyashiv, the Halacha allows instituting civil marriage in Israel for non-Jews only. Therefore, any couple wishing to wed through civil marriage will have to prove to a rabbinical court that both partners are not Jewish, this in order to prevent "legally sanctioned" assimilation.

    The rabbi stressed that civil marriage between Jews, or a mixed couples, was out of the question.

    The United Torah Judaism coalition negotiations team is expected to present this as a major demand to the Likud.

    The ruling was also authorized by the Gerrer Rebbe and Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman.

    Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has recently reached a compromise with the Yisrael Beiteinu party, according to which non-Jews will be allowed to hold civil marriage. However, the chief rabbi did not condition this on a rabbinical court approval."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Recipients and PublicityApril 1, 2009 at 8:36 AM

    UTJ's agreement to officially join Netanyahu's coalition means that the ground-breaking agreements between UTJ and Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu regarding civil marraige between gentiles in Israel has the green light.

    Rav Eliashiv, with the agreement of the Gerrer Rebbe and Rav Shteinman and Rav Amar, set guidelines for how civil marriage in Isreal between gentiles can take place with a central role granted for official beis din and Rabbinate approval.


    Latest report from the English language Yated Ne'eman:

    "YATED NE’EMAN
    2 Nissan 5769 ● March 27 2009
    Page 151

    Rav Alyashiv Delineates Civil Marriage for Non-Jews

    Arutz-7 reported (March 19, 2009) that in the wake of Yisrael Beiteinu’s coalition demands to permit civil marriage, rabbanim involved with conversion and civil marriage met with Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv to present their conclusions to him.

    The members of the committee, Rav Elyashiv’s son-in-law Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, Rabbi Ephraim Zemel, Rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf, and others, voiced their recommendations. According to L’daat web site, Rav Elyashiv replied that civil marriage may only be allowed between non-Jews after a Beis Din has verified their non-Jewish status. Rabbi Elyashiv additionally requested that only a non-Jew be allowed to officiate at a civil union between two non-Jews, as presently occurs within the Druze and Christian communities.

    Towards the end of the meeting, Rav Elyashiv invited the Rabbanim to accompany him to a meeting previously scheduled with the Gerrer Rebbe at his home. The Rabbanim presented their reasons to the Gerrer Rebbe, and to Rav Aharon Leib Steinman, and both agreed to Rabbi Elyashiv’s ruling.

    Ashkenazi Chief Rav Yona Metzger issued a statement, ‘The Rabbinate will not reach a decision in the matter until it receives Rav Elyashiv’s position. Rav Metzger will not move an inch away from Rav Elyashiv’s position. As far as we’re concerned, it’s Kodesh K’doshim.”

    Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has also gone on record as permitting civil marriage between non-Jews.

    The approval from Gedolei Hador will permit the UTJ party to move ahead in coalition talks, after their negotiators had explained to Likud counterparts that they cannot respond on the civil marriage issue until the Rav renders a decision.

    The Rabbonim who researched the subject of civil marriage for non-Jews stipulated that such weddings may only be performed by a non-Jew, preferably an attorney, and no Jew may be in any way connected to the ceremony, not directly or indirectly, even if he is only functioning as a court official.

    The second stipulation accompanying the ruling is that all requests for a non-Jewish civil wedding first pass through the Chief Rabbinate to permit checking their database to ensure that Jews do not claim to be goyim to bypass the Rabbinate."

    ReplyDelete
  8. Recipients and PublicityApril 1, 2009 at 11:42 AM

    The Jerusalem Post.com reports:

    "Likud, UTJ reach conversion compromise

    Apr. 1, 2009

    Matthew Wagner and Gil Hoffman ,

    THE JERUSALEM POST

    United Torah Judaism was expected to sign a coalition agreement with the Likud late Tuesday night or Wednesday after a compromise was reached on the issue of conversion reforms.

    A spokesman for MK Uri Maklev said that the signing of the agreement was put off until after the swearing-in of the government. This was because any changes to the coalition agreements before the swearing-in would have required a 24-hour delay to allow the Knesset to review the changes.

    UTJ MK Moshe Gafni said Tuesday night that the conversion compromise agreement was "very good."

    "We made sure that all conversions require the full acceptance of an Orthodox lifestyle, including the acceptance of the yoke of mitzvot," said Gafni.

    Ya'acov Weinroth, a haredi lawyer who has strong ties with the UTJ, managed to draft an agreement that was acceptable both to the religious sensibilities of UTJ's rabbinic leadership and Israel Beiteinu.

    Israel Beiteinu is interested in helping its immigrant constituency, some of whom came to Israel under the Law of Return but who are not Jewish and do not claim any other religion. As a result they are unable to marry since only religious authorities - Jewish, Christian or Muslim - are permitted to conduct weddings.

    In return for the changes UTJ demanded that would limit some of Israel Beiteinu's proposals aimed at making it easier to convert to Judaism, UTJ agreed to a clause that would allow Israeli citizens with no religious definition (Christian, Muslim or Jewish) to create a civil union.

    The agreement was presented Tuesday morning to Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the preeminent halachic authority for Ashkenazi haredim, and received his approval.

    According to Maklev's spokesman, any amendments to laws that govern conversions would have to be approved by the Chief Rabbinate.

    Gafni said that another significant UTJ achievement was connected to child allowances. Instead of receiving the NIS 1.4 billion increase in allotments over three years, the increase would take place over a little more than two years.

    At the end of the process families with two, three and four children under 18 would receive a NIS 93 increase per child.

    UTJ also managed to ensure that all children who went to some form of educational framework, including one not recognized by the Education Ministry, would be entitled to child allowances.

    Finally, the UTJ demanded that specific cities would be designated to host haredi building projects to accommodate the growing haredi population. These cities are: Kiryat Gat, Harish, Lod, Kiryat Ye'arim and Beit Shemesh.

    UTJ will receive the Health Ministry portfolio, which will be held by a deputy minister; the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee and chairmanship of the Knesset Public Complaints Committee. The Likud also agreed to appoint a UTJ deputy minister in the Education Ministry.

    The party is scheduled to have a faction meeting Wednesday to decide whether Gafni or Ya'acov Litzman will be chairman of the Finance Committee, which is considered the most attractive position.

    Meanwhile, the National Union found out on Tuesday that they would not be entering the government, when the portfolio they were hoping for was given to Silvan Shalom as a last-minute gesture.

    Talks between Likud and the National Union broke down last Monday when it became apparent that Labor would be joining the coalition. Since then, there had been no serious contact between the two factions.

    But National Union MKs kept hope alive that they would be wanted in the coalition. Their hopes were boosted when Netanyahu told ministers who requested the Negev and Galilee Development portfolio that he was keeping it in case the National Union joined.

    National Union MK Uri Ariel even met with outgoing Negev and Galilee Development Minister Ya'acov Edri to learn about the ministry.

    "We could finish a deal within three hours, but it takes two to tango," Ariel said. "We may focus on helping Judea and Samaria, but we care about the entire land of Israel."

    A member of the Likud's negotiating team said Tuesday afternoon that he would restart talks with the National Union after a deal with UTJ was finalized.

    But three hours later, Netanyahu met with Shalom and gave him the portfolio, effectively ending the National Union's hopes for joining the coalition.

    "They could have joined three weeks ago but they missed the train," a source close to Netanyahu said."

    ReplyDelete
  9. Recipients and PublicityApril 1, 2009 at 12:09 PM

    It's finally official: UTJ formally signs one with the new Netanyahu coalition government.

    Two more keys reports:

    From Earth Times.org:

    Israel's Premier Netanyahu signs deal with fifth coalition partner

    Posted on : 2009-04-01 | Author : DPA

    News Category : Middle East

    Jerusalem - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party signed a coalition agreement with a fifth partner, the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) on Wednesday, a day after his government was sworn in. The agreement was signed after last-minute differences were ironed out, Israel Radio reported.

    UTJ, which has five mandates in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel's parliament, did not receive any ministerial portfolios. It did receive the deputy ministerial posts of health and education.

    The main bone of contention had been the wording of a clause in the coalition agreement, dealing with conversion to Judaism. The party represents largely ultra-Orthodox Jews of Ashkenazi, or European, origin, while another coalition partner, Shas of Interior Minister Eli Yishai, represents largely ultra-Orthodox Jews of Sephardic, or Near Eastern origin.

    The Likud's three other coalition partners are the ultra- nationalist Israel Beiteinu of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the left-to-centre Labour Party of Defence Minister Ehud Barak and the pro-settler, far-right Jewish Home party of Science Minister Daniel Hershkovitz."

    ~~~~~

    The following gives more insight into the nuts and bolts issues involved between UTJ and the Likud and Netanyahu's coalition government:

    UTJ primed to join coalition

    Mar. 30, 2009

    Matthew Wagner,

    THE JERUSALEM POST

    United Torah Judaism's MKs were optimistic Monday evening that they would reach an agreement with Likud and Israel Beiteinu to enter the government coalition.

    MKs Moshe Gafni and Ya'acov Litzman were to meet with Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu and Israel Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman to finalize an agreement.

    Likud's negotiating team was working to reach a compromise on proposed conversion reforms that UTJ could live with.

    Likud faction chair Ze'ev Elkin told The Jerusalem Post in the afternoon that that every effort was being made to enable the Ashkenazi haredi party to join the coalition.

    If it does, the Likud-led coalition would number 74 MKs. With this number of MKs the only party that could topple the government by bolting is Israel Beiteinu.

    Sources in Likud were concerned that UTJ would threaten the stability of the government coalition if it remained in opposition to protest against proposed conversion reforms, while the Sephardi haredi Shas party joined the coalition.

    Likud leaders feared that attacks by UTJ on Shas for adopting an overly lenient position on conversions would put pressure on Shas to leave the coalition.

    While Shas has agreed to the conversion reforms, the haredi Ashkenazi rabbinic establishment, led by UTJ's preeminent halachic authority Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, has publicly opposed them.

    Shas, under the advice of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and with the backing of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, agreed to certain changes in the way conversions are performed by rabbinic judges on the state payroll.

    The Chief Rabbinate's Supreme Rabbinical Council also agreed to changes demanded by Israel Beiteinu, which include steps to be taken to make it easier for non-Jews to convert to Judaism.

    For example, city rabbis approved by the Chief Rabbinate will be allowed to perform conversions. This would increase the number of rabbis permitted to convert.

    The Ashkenazi haredi rabbinic establishment opposes this reform, arguing that in the 1990s when city rabbis were allowed to convert, there were several incidents of city rabbis accepting bribes in exchange for arranging the conversion.

    Also, territorial restrictions on rabbinical judges' jurisdiction are to be abolished. As a result, a rabbinic conversion judge will not be restricted to converting Israeli citizens who live in his district.

    But Ashkenazi haredi rabbis are concerned that potential converts will take advantage of this reform to choose the more lenient rabbinic judges to perform the conversions.

    Among the compromises being proposed to counter UTJ opposition is the establishment of a rabbinic committee, to include representatives of Elyashiv, that would ultimately decide which local rabbis can perform conversions, and which cannot.

    Amar has had run-ins with the Ashkenazi haredi rabbinical establishment in the past. He was attacked by Ashkenazi haredi rabbis for expressing a more lenient position on the question of determining the moment of death, to enable a wider range of organ donations.

    Amar was also criticized for supporting leniencies during the shmita (sabbatical) year last year.

    Over a year ago, Amar was forced to cancel his participation in a conference with women's organizations and rabbis that was aimed at finding solutions for agunot - women who are unable to remarry because their husbands refuse to provide them with a writ of divorce.

    However, the present attack on Amar over the conversion issue has been particularly vigorous.

    A senior rabbinical source close to Elyashiv explained the strong opposition to Amar's position on conversions that threatened to block UTJ's entrance into the government.

    "Unlike issues such as shmita and brain death where the individual has his own choice whether to accept a particular opinion or not, conversions are something that affects the entire Jewish people," said the source.

    "We are talking about who is entering the Jewish nation. Therefore, there must be an across-the-board rabbinical consensus. Otherwise the Jewish people will be split into separate communities. It will tear the Jewish people apart."

    Meanwhile, Shas's Council of Sages, headed by Yosef, chose the party's ministers on Monday.

    Shas Chairman Eli Yishai was chosen to be interior minister. Though the ministry had a modest operating budget of NIS 665 million in 2008, it also has say in the distribution of NIS 3.9 billion in government funding channeled to the local authorities.

    The interior minister also has wide influence on the municipal level and is also responsible for immigration policy and citizenship issues.

    Ariel Attias was tapped by the Council of Sages to serve as construction and housing minister. His portfolio includes the Israel Lands Administration.

    These two entities have a combined annual budget of over NIS 9 billion. In the government coalition agreement there are directives for extensive zoning reforms that would facilitate speedy construction of housing for the fast-growing haredi public.

    Ya'acov Margi was chosen to serve as the next religious affairs minister. He will replace Ya'acov Cohen, who will serve as a deputy minister in the Finance Ministry.

    According to a spokesman for the Religious Affairs Ministry during 2008 Cohen managed to increase the budget for religious services by 50%.

    In the 2009 budget a total of NIS 455m. is allotted for religious councils. Another NIS 88m. is earmarked for synagogues and NIS 21.4m. for conversions via the Conversion Authority. Some NIS 70.5m. is earmarked for religious services.

    Gil Hoffman contributed to this report."

    ReplyDelete
  10. Recipients and PublicityApril 2, 2009 at 9:31 AM

    Arutz 7 reports:

    Compromise Reached on Conversion Reforms

    Nisan 7, 5769, 01 April 09 12:38by

    Hana Levi Julian
    (IsraelNN.com)

    A compromise has been reached between the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party and the Likud-led government on the issue of conversion reforms.

    UTJ Knesset Member Moshe Gafni said the agreement was "very good" in speaking with reporters on Tuesday night following approval by Ashkenazi hareidi-religious Torah sage Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.

    Secular immigrants to Israel who came under the Law of Return, many from the former Soviet Union, have been faced with a dilemma when it comes time to marry. Many are not halachically Jewish (according to Jewish law –ed.) and therefore are not allowed by religious authorities to marry. There are no civil marriages in Israel at present, and only religious authorities conduct ceremonies.

    The issue of finding a solution to this problem has been a major plank in the platform of the Russian immigrant-led Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) party, the second largest in the new coalition government.

    The compromise reached with UTJ would allow for Israelis who have no religious status or definition (such as Jewish, Muslim or Christian) to obtain a civil marriage.

    In exchange, Yisrael Beiteinu agreed to back down on some of its demands for streamlining the conversion process for those who want to become Jews.

    "We made sure that all converts would be required to fully accept an Orthodox lifestyle, including full observance of mitzvoth," Gafni said. Sources said the office of the Chief Rabbinate must approve amendments to any laws relating to conversions."

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