Most Israelis favor same-sex marriage, but half of MKs mum on issue

Most Israelis favor same-sex marriage, but half of MKs mum on issue

Lawmakers who did not respond to the Channel 10 survey include culture minister, who has marched in pride parade

A gay couple has a symbolic wedding ceremony under a traditional wedding canopy during the annual Pride parade in Jerusalem, July 21, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
A gay couple has a symbolic wedding ceremony under a traditional wedding canopy during the annual Pride parade in Jerusalem, July 21, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

As Tel Aviv gears up for an influx of tens of thousands of revelers for Friday’s annual Pride March, a survey commissioned by Channel 10 news and published Monday showed that 58 percent of Israelis are in favor of same-sex marriage.

However, Israeli lawmakers were more reticent in airing their views on the issue, with 47 MKs stating that they are in favor, 12 strongly opposing, and the remainder of the 120 Knesset members refusing to respond.

Only four politicians from the ruling Likud party stated that they were in favor of same-sex marriage, including Amir Ohana, the first openly gay Likud lawmaker, with two MKs saying they were against. According to Channel 10, the remainder of Likud lawmakers did not respond to the survey, including Culture Minister Miri Regev, who in the past has marched in the gay pride parade.

The Kulanu party only had two supporters of same-sex marriage, with the rest abstaining, and the majority of Jewish Home lawmakers did not respond to the poll, with only Uri Ariel stating his opposition. The Shas and United Torah Judaism parties had two objections between them, and the Joint List had two MKs in favor, five opposed and six who didn’t answer. There was no response from lawmakers in the Yisrael Beytenu party.

The left-leaning Labor and Meretz parties both fully came out in support of same-sex marriage. MK Merav Michaeli, who is the co-chair of the gay rights lobby in the Knesset, responded to the results in a statement to Channel 10: “I am happy that I am not surprised by the results — the public has long understood that members of the community deserve equal rights like every other citizen. The State of Israel is the only democratic state in which there is no civil marriage, and it is time for this government to understand that we are in the year 2018.”

Dr. Evan Cohen, chairman of the Likud party’s pride faction, said he believes that Israeli lawmakers will catch up with popular public opinion.

“The results of the survey do not surprise anyone well acquainted with the Likud party, which has a constitution calling for equality and the prevention of discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation,” he said, according to Channel 10. “The Knesset is, as always, lagging behind the people, and despite the support of most Likud MKs for equality, MKs are afraid of the electoral implications. I hope that with the understanding that there is broad public support, the public support of our elected representatives will also come.”

Revelers at the Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade, June 9, 2017 (Miriam Herschlag)

In Israel, though same-sex marriage is not technically illegal, there is no institution authorized to carry it out. In a system inherited from Ottoman times, people can only marry in Israel through their religious institutions: Jewish couples must marry through the Chief Rabbinate, which refuses to carry out same sex marriages, and Christians, Druze and Muslims all marry through their own state-sanctioned and publicly funded religious legal systems.

A similar survey last year looking at the Israeli public’s support for same-sex marriage, albeit with a different sample size and questions, showed an all-time high of 79% of Israelis supporting same-sex marriage or civil unions.

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