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LGBT activists protest after MKs nix 5 gay rights bills

200 members of the community take to the streets near government district in Tel Aviv demanding change in the law

Illustrative: Israelis walking past the Knesset during the annual gay parade in Jerusalem, July 29, 2010. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Illustrative: Israelis walking past the Knesset during the annual gay parade in Jerusalem, July 29, 2010. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Some 200 members of Israel’s LGBT community protested in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, days after the Knesset voted against five bills that would improve LGBT rights in Israel.

Protesters took to the streets close to a compound of government offices, where they chanted “sick of your promises” and “change the laws,” while others held banners with the words “fighting for equality.”

The Knesset vote on Wednesday — 24 hours after parliament marked an LGBT rights day for the first time — drew a furious response from the opposition.

The opposition-driven bills sought to recognize same-sex spouses of fallen IDF soldiers, introduce civil unions, ban conversion therapy for minors, and require medical professionals to study gender and sexual orientation prior to receiving their licenses. The proposals were all opposed by the coalition.

Likud MK Amir Ohana, the coalition’s sole openly gay lawmaker, was in the Knesset at the time, but was not present in the plenum for the voting.

Likud party politician Amir Ohana (left) and his partner seen at Ben Gurion International Airport as they arrive back from the US with their surrogate babies, on September 26, 2015. (Flash90)
Likud party politician Amir Ohana (left) and his partner seen at Ben Gurion International Airport as they arrive back from the US with their surrogate babies, on September 26, 2015. (Flash90)

The Zionist Union party condemned the coalition for torpedoing the bills a day after LGBT rights day, and accused the government of hypocrisy.

“It turns out the coalition merely uses the members of the LGBT community for public relations, and in the moment of truth opposes all the laws benefiting it,” the statement said.

The party singled out Likud MK Sharren Haskel, the chair of the Knesset’s LGBT lobby, for voting against the legislation, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Culture Minister Miri Regev for skipping the vote.

During Tuesday’s events, the committees and plenum were dedicated to the issue of LGBT rights. Netanyahu attended the session and requested permission to address the plenum.

“I asked to come here in the middle of a busy day to say one thing to the members of the LGBT community — every person was created in the image of God,” the prime minister said. “This is an idea that was introduced to humanity by our nation thousands of years ago, and this is the principle that must guide our national life today.”

Marissa Newman contributed to this report

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