Shalom Life | March 15, 2014

Israeli LGBT Community Fights Back

The suppressing of gay rights bill is met with anger in the LGBT community

By: Zak Edwards

Published: December 12th, 2013 in News » Israel

A bill that would allow gay couples in Israel to use surrogates to make families was killed when it came before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, reports Haaretz, and the LGBT community is lashing out.

Five ministers from the Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi parties were integral to stopping the bill, which many have seen as a political move given the unstable coalition currently in power. The LGBT community has taken to the internet in protest, forming groups and changing their profile photos in a sign of solidarity.

Prominent gay rights activist Yonatan Vanunu started a Hebrew Facebook group called “LGBTs Demand Equality", which had over 4000 likes in under 24 hours, and has been vocal in his opposition to the continued suppression of gay rights in Israel.

“I did full military service, I am an independent business owner who pays taxes, I pursued academic studies and I am also gay," Vanunu wrote in a Facebook post. "Many people say that sexual orientation does not define the person; that being gay is only in bed; that no one cares what I do behind closed doors. And there's nothing that annoys me more than this attitude. Homosexuality is not just in bed! It’s a relationship, it’s a family, it’s a community. Surprisingly enough, my country actually does define me by my sexual orientation. It defines me as unacceptable. As unequal to my brothers or friends.”

Vanunu collaborated with graphic designer friend Tal Speigel to make a picture for people to show solidarity. Based on the image from earlier this year that went viral just before the US Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, this new equality sign uses the colours of the Israeli flag instead of the usual pride colours.

The bill, put forth by health minister Yael German, would see equal rights extended to gay couples for tax breaks concerning children. The law currently gives more money to women than men, putting gay couples at a disadvantage.

But last week, Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, asking him to halt the bill. According to The Times of Israel, “Shaked argued that the presented bill violates the coalition agreement’s stipulations on religion and state due to its far-reaching implications for marriage law.”

Shaked’s supporters have spoken up about their decision, citing that they are not interested in suppressing gay rights, but “preserving” marriage. Shaked has written that “the proposed bill disrupts the status quo between religion and the state as they exist in Israel, and its purpose is to undermine the public debate on civil marriage, which should be undertaken with seriousness.”

Her supporters are spouting similar diatribes, with Habayit Hayehudi leader MK Naftali Bennett saying that “there are more countries in the world that do not recognize same-sex marriage than those that do.”

He went on to say that gay marriage "is not recognized in Germany, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Moreover, Denmark, Italy, Greece, and Russia do not recognize same-sex relationships at all.”

His statement isn't exactly accurate. Most of his listed nations do, in fact, support gay marriage, offering recognition and rights that are either on par or very similar to the benefits afforded straight couples. Ireland is also planning on changing their constitution in 2015 to better recognize gay marriage.

As for positively comparing yourself to Russia in the realm of gay rights, clearly Mr. Bennett has not been reading the news.
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