President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday visited the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Center in Tel Aviv, to mark the eighth anniversary since two people were shot dead at the center’s Youth Bar in an attack that also injured another 11 people.
“The LGBT community is an integral part of Israeli society,” Rivlin said. “God forbid we should ever give up – there are disagreements that relate to society as a whole, and for them we must fight for the way our society looks, each and every one of us, according to their beliefs. Let us discuss, let us resolve disputes out of mutual respect for each other.”
In what appeared to be a reference to an ongoing debate on the rights of same-sex couples to adopt children Rivlin added “I am filled with hope, that the State of Israel, and all its institutions, will know how to act responsibly in its decision-making, and in a way that does not negate or degrade any population, even in the struggle over disputed issues.”
Rivlin’s wife Nechama Rivlin, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, his wife Yael Huldai, and Chairman of the municipal LGBT community center, Etai Pinkas Arad attended the event.
“In the last few weeks, we have witnessed a number of challenging moments in the struggle for equal rights for the LGBT community in Israel,” said Arad, who is also a member of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality.
“We are grateful to the President for choosing to honor the community, and for proving that where hatred, prejudice, and violence raise their heads, there is a national leadership that stands up to them and promotes respect, acceptance, and equality in Israeli society. This is a message that must be shared by all citizens of Israel,” he said.
Last month, the government notified the High Court of Justice that it opposes adoption by same-sex couples as it would “load additional baggage” on their children. Same-sex couples are legally allowed to be approved for adoption, but they typically must wait longer and can only receive children if no heterosexual couple is available. Many same-sex couples adopt babies from other countries.
The government response, submitted on behalf of the welfare and justice ministries, was in response to a petition by the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers, which called for equal treatment in the adoption process
The declared opposition sparked outrage from the LGBT community and many senior politicians. The High Court asked the state reconsider.
The 2009 shooting at the bar was a landmark event for the community and remains an open investigation.
A suspect, Hagai Felician was indicted in July 2013 for murder and attempted murder in the August 1, 2009 attack that the prosecution said was a hate crime.
However, In 2014 he was released and all charges dropped after spending eight months in jail pending murder charges. Instead, Tarlan Hankishayev, the state’s witness who testified against Felician was charged with obstruction of justice and giving false testimony.
He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 65-months in prison. Felician was awarded NIS 2.2 million (approx. $580,000) in compensations for his wrongful incarceration.
The investigation into the attack was at the time the most expensive in the history of the Israel Police, with authorities questioning over 1,000 people. The actual shooter has not been identified.
Agencies contributed to this report.