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MK: Knesset dropped transgender rights bill due to Haredi pressure

Amir Ohana accuses his party of ‘caving’ to threats by ‘most homophobic minister,’ Health Minister Yaakov Litzman

Likud MK Amir Ohana in the Knesset. (Knesset spokesman)
Likud MK Amir Ohana in the Knesset. (Knesset spokesman)

Likud MK Amir Ohana blasted fellow coalition lawmakers on Wednesday after a bill protecting transgender people from hate crimes was taken off the parliament’s agenda.

The bill sought to add “gender identity” to the categories recognized in Israel’s criminal code as potential targets for hate crimes, a step that would have allowed prosecutors to seek more severe punishments for attacks targeting transgendered individuals.

According to Ohana, coalition chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) removed the bill from Wednesday’s agenda after pressure from Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party.

Calling Litzman “the most homophobic minister” in the political system, Ohana blasted Bitan for “caving, not for the first time, to interests that aren’t Likud’s, values that aren’t Likud’s.”

Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman during a Knesset plenary session, January 11, 2016. (Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman during a Knesset plenary session, January 11, 2016. (Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

“Don’t count me with the coalition today,” Ohana, Likud’s first openly gay MK, said in the plenum Wednesday. “Today I won’t vote with the coalition. This is a sad day for the coalition and the Knesset.”

The bill was slated to come up for a preliminary vote in the plenum Wednesday, amid a series of scandals involving religious opposition to LGBT rights.

Litzman and Bitan have not responded to media requests for comment.

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