Despite inclement weather, over a thousand gay rights activists gathered in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square Saturday night to protest the Jewish Home party’s veto of a bill that would afford child tax breaks to male homosexual couples.
“We won’t let this situation continue,” Shai Deutsch, chairman of the Israeli National Association for LGBT, said in his speech at the demonstration. “The time has come that we support those who support us in the Knesset and the government, and resolutely attack those LGBT-phobic in the government and Knesset that, although they are a minority, attempt to turn Israel into a religious dictatorship like Iran.”
Deutsch later appealed to prominent politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leading MKs from the Yesh Atid party, stating: “Don’t give in to religious coercion.”
Demonstrators held aloft signs bearing slogans such as “No, we are not animals. Just people,” and “The Other is equal, too.”
The protest organizers announced that activists would return next Saturday night as well, and they anticipate a larger crowd as weather conditions are expected to improve.
The proposed legislation was submitted by Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol and passed its first reading on December 1. Under its stipulations, gay male couples would receive equal tax breaks as same-sex female couples and heterosexual couples. Under current Israeli law, mothers receive higher tax breaks for children than fathers.
Hours after the bill passed in the first Knesset vote, Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked sent a letter to Netanyahu demanding the bill be torpedoed. In the letter, Shaked argued that under the present coalition terms Jewish Home may veto any legislation that undermines the religious status quo in Israel.
“The suggested bill disrupts the status quo between religion and the state as they exist in Israel, and its purpose is to burrow under the public debate on civil marriage, which should be undertaken with seriousness,” she wrote.
Following the letter, the preliminary reading of the legislation, originally scheduled for December 4, was pushed off indefinitely.
Public support for the LGBT community has gained traction in Israel in the past weeks. Last week, hundreds of Facebook users changed their profile pictures to a blue-and-white image of the equality sign as an expression of solidarity. In a poll released Sunday, 70 percent of Israelis said they support equal rights — though not necessarily civil marriage — for homosexual couples.