But Christians must always register their religious marriage with civil authorities for it to be legal.

This has given churches a lot of power: though Christians can get a civil divorce, the church will not remarry them, so the state cannot recognise a new marriage.

law as interpreted by Imam Abu Hanifa, an eighth-century Iraqi scholar who founded one of Sunni Islam's four jurisprudential schools.

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But, through the Sacred Mystery, the union enters at the same time into a new reality: that of God's Kingdom.

In Christ, marriage is restored to its initial perfection and in the sacrament, this union is made open to the possibility of what God intended marriage to be from the beginning: an eternal life of joy in union with Him. There is no exchange of vows - the two have freely and coequally committed to one another and consented to God's presence in their union. If marriage is brought into the Kingdom of God, death, as a separation, is powerless over it.

But the latest court ruling may have marked a notable first step.

It is not reduced to an exchange of vows or the establish­ment of a legal contract between the bride and groom.

The couple brings themselves, each other, their lives, and all that fills their lives, to the altar as an offering to God.

As the couple enters into the midst of the Church, their relationship enters into the new reality of God's Kingdom.

In the Ortho­dox marriage ceremony, the bride and groom offer their lives to Christ and to each other—literally as crowned martyrs. The Orthodox Church cannot and will not bless same-sex unions.

According to a statement by the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) in 2003, "The Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, firmly grounded in Holy Scripture, 2000 years of church tradition, and canon law, holds that marriage consists in the conjugal union of a man and a woman, and that authentic marriage is blessed by God as a sacrament of the Church.

In the meantime, the affair has stirred a debate over whether civil and religious law should be separate.

Secularists have long argued that Egyptians should be able to marry outside their faiths.

The priest chants Psalm 128, "Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways..." This psalm is one of the "Psalms of Ascent" sung by Jewish pilgrims on the way to the Jerusalem Temple.