Moderators, beware, I am once again I am experiencing the "title bug". Anyhow, this is a topic that constantly comes up in Israel and has implications for not just Israel, but for Jews all over the world.
Not long ago, we had a debate on which conversions to Judaism should be accepted as valid in Israel (specifically should non-Orthodox conversions be accepted as valid). Why do I bring this up? Because one of the biggest bones of contention when it comes to conversion is marriage. Which converts will be considered "kosher" enough to marry a Jew who is a Jew according to halacha (no matter how little he/she practices Judaism)?
A good way to reduce friction between the non-Orthodox and Orthodox movements (although it wouldn't reduce the friction 100%; there would still be an ego factor from both sides), would be to allow civil marriages in Israel. That way the Orthodox would not have to "lower the bar" so to speak when it comes to accepting converts, as they would not have to accept converts they do not consider "kosher" enough for marriages that will be conducted by the Rabbinate. On the other hand, the non-Orthodox movements would be able to conduct their own marriages. This is pretty much how Jewry in America operates and, I suspect, Jewry in the rest of the western world as well. The Orthodox Rabbinate in the diaspora only officiates in marriages where both parties are "kosher enough" in their eyes, so it would be the same in Israel.
Another advantage of civil marriage in Israel would be less contempt toward the religious from the less observant. Religious coercion has never convinced Jews to become more observant (at least not from what I have seen). So, this might also be another step towards goodwill and a bridge towards reconciliation between the observant and less observant Jews in Israel.
Of course (as I'm sure you've all been anticipating), there are disadvantages to civil marriage in Israel. I don't think I need to spell out how civil marriage could threaten Israel as a Jewish state if anybody could just marry anybody. While it is true that a Jew and non-Jew could fly to Cyprus, have a quick ceremony, and return to live in Israel as a recognized married couple, there is still a difference between Israel FORMALLY recognizing and endorsing intermarriage WITHIN Israel itself versus making it known that anyone who wants to intermarry will have to leave the country to do so.
Personally, I am definitely in favor of civil marriage between two parties who are not halachically Jewish. They have a right to marry and I don't think it is right that they can't. However, I am not sure if I am ready to cross the line and be in favor of civil marriage between a Jew (halachic) and a non-Jew.
I open the floor to friendly debate....:-)