AG says Jerusalem municipality was wrong to order removal of anti-LGBT ads

Mandelblit says campaign ahead of pride parade promoting ‘normal’ families fell under purview of freedom of speech; city says it will respect his position

A sign against same-sex marriage in Jerusalem on June 4, 2019. The Hebrew words say "Father and Mother = Family . The courage to be normal." (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A sign against same-sex marriage in Jerusalem on June 4, 2019. The Hebrew words say "Father and Mother = Family . The courage to be normal." (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said that the Jerusalem municipality overstepped its bounds when it ordered advertisements against same-sex marriage removed from city streets ahead of the capital’s last gay pride parade, Haaretz reported Monday.

In light of his position, the municipality has since said it would not, as a rule, limit such campaigns in the future, though it added that it came to the decision “with a heavy heart.”

Days before the 2019 parade in June of last year, the municipality removed the posters calling for “normal” families. The signs posted by the conservative religious group Hazon (Vision) espoused traditional values and countered the LGBT movement with the slogan “Father and Mother = Family. The courage to be normal.”

Rabbi Noa Sattath, director of the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center, blasted the Hazon posters at the time as “incitement,” charging that the conservative group was “against anyone who does not hold their dark and violent worldview.”

After receiving complaints about the posters, the municipality ordered them removed, saying “the content of the advertisement could offend a section of Jerusalem’s public.”

Participants in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, on June 6, 2019. (Times of Israel)

Hazon asserted at the time that the parade was offensive to much of the Jerusalem public.

Since then the group has petitioned to the Jerusalem District Court to rule on the matter, leading the court to seek the attorney general’s position.

According to Haaretz, Mandelblit ruled that the posters were legitimate under laws protecting freedom of speech.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at a conference in Airport City, outside Tel Aviv, on September 03, 2019 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“The municipality’s authority to limit advertisements over public offense should be reserved for highly exceptional cases, concerning serious and severe harm that is beyond what can be tolerated in a democratic society,” Mandelblit said. The circumstances in the case “did not justify” the decision, he concluded.

The municipality said it would abide by the attorney general’s ruling and would not in future, as a rule, block such advertisements. However, it noted that it came to the decision “with mixed feelings and a heavy heart.” It also stressed that it maintained the right to review such matters on a case-by-case basis.

The Jerusalem parade is one of dozens of events around Israel during Pride month. The march in the capital is held under particularly tight security due to fears of violence directed at participants, and in light of an attack during the 2015 parade — when an ultra-orthodox man stabbed a teenager to death and wounded several other people.

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