In a landmark civil rights case coinciding with the 2015 “Tel Aviv Loves All Genders” themed Tel Aviv Pride Week, the National Labor Court determined employees may not be discriminated against based on their gender identity.
The historic recognition of a community vastly marginalized within Israeli society came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged the LGBT movement’s struggles for equality.
“The struggle for every person to be recognized as equal before the law is a long struggle, and there is still a long way to go,” Netanyahu wrote Wednesday in a Facebook post in honor of Pride Week, noting that he is proud Israel is “among the most open countries in the world.”
According to the June 2 court ruling, protection from gender identity discrimination was inferred by the Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law’s prohibition of discrimination due to gender and sexual orientation.
The precedent was reached during the appeal of Marina Meshel, a transgender woman who sued the Center for Educational Technology (CET), claiming she had been fired on account of her gender identity. The court ruled in favor of Meshel, ordering the CET compensate her with NIS 21,000 in damages.
Meshel had appealed to the national court after the Tel Aviv district labor court had ruled against her, claiming she had not been fired because she was transgender, but rather because she had crossed “boundaries” in conversations she held with female school students at the center, regarding sexuality and gender identity.
Transgenders are the most discriminated group within the LGBT community, according to a recent report drafted by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) at the Ministry of Economy.
An overwhelming 86 percent of transgenders said they earn less than the average market wage. The report also found that the employment rate among transgenders reached 68%, far lower than other LGBT groups.
Following up on the court precedent, Meretz MK Michal Rozin said on Wednesday that she plans to submit an amendment to the employment law.
“It is fitting that the legislator anchor into law the protection of those discriminated against due to their gender identity,” Rozin stated in her amendment proposal.
“Such legislation would convey a definitive message both to employers and employees regarding the right of every worker not to face discrimination and harassment.”
Also on Wednesday, President Reuven Rivlin welcomed to his residence members of the Israeli Gay Youth (IGY) organization, as part of the pride celebrations.
In the first visit of its kind to the President’s Office, Rivlin said he felt honored to welcome the group to his home.
“Twenty-two years ago I had the honor of welcoming the first delegation of the gay community to the Knesset. Today I have the honor of receiving you for the first time at the President’s Residence,” Rivlin said.
Tel Aviv has emerged as one of the world’s most gay-friendly travel destinations, and its gay pride events draw thousands of participants each year. This year, the celebration will emphasize the transgender community.