Support for same-sex unions in Israel soars
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Support for same-sex unions in Israel soars

Survey by advocacy group says 76% of Israelis support gay marriage or civil unions, up 12% since last year

Religious participants in the annual gay pride parade in Jerusalem, Sept. 18, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Religious participants in the annual gay pride parade in Jerusalem, Sept. 18, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Support for gay civil unions or marriage has sharply risen among Israelis to a strong majority over the past year, according to a poll released on Wednesday.

According to the poll, conducted by the Israeli civil equality advocacy group Hiddush, 76 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative to the question: “In your opinion, should civil marriage/civil partnerships be available for same-sex couples?”

In 2009, only a slim majority of Jewish Israelis said “yes” to the above question. In 2015 public support rose to 64%.

The poll, which was conducted via telephone on May 24-25 among 500 people, surveyed the Israeli public across religious and political lines.

Arches of rainbow-hued balloons at Tel Aviv's Gay Pride parade in June 2015. (Guy Yehiely/City of Tel Aviv-Jaffa)
Arches of rainbow-hued balloons at Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride parade in June 2015. (Guy Yehiely/City of Tel Aviv-Jaffa)

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, and Christians, Druze and Muslims all marry through their own state-sanctioned and publicly funded religious systems.

Across the religious spectrum, the group most supportive of same-sex marriage or civil unions in Israel according to the poll is the secular Jewish public (90%), followed by traditional Jews (77%). Nearly half (46%) of national religious and 16% of ultra-Orthodox Jews support civil unions or same-sex marriage.

The poll also found that 74% of respondents from the former Soviet Union, a population that is considered very conservative on LGBT rights, supported same-sex marriage or civil unions, just below the 76% average support of native Israelis.

As for the Israeli political spectrum, the poll found that 74% of Likud voters support establishing same-sex marriage or civil unions, as did a majority of the other non-Haredi government coalition parties, including 93% of Kulanu voters, 80% of Yisrael Beytenu voters, and 57% of Jewish Home voters. Within the coalition, only the ultra-Orthodox parties’ voters were opposed, with 73% of Shas voters and 95% of United Torah Judaism voters responding in the negative.

Voters among the centrist and left-wing parties in the opposition were greatly in favor of establishing same-sex marriage or civil unions, with 89% of Yesh Atid, 95% of Meretz, and 98% of Zionist Union voters expressing their support.

Thousands attend the annual Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv, June 13, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Thousands attend the annual Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv, June 13, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The poll also found that if same-sex marriage or civil unions were to be recognized in Israel, 80% of Israelis believe that couples involved in such partnerships should be granted the same rights as heterosexual marriages.

The poll’s publication comes during the city of Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride week, which began on May 29. Over 100,000 people are expected to take part in the week’s events, according to the organizer’s website.

“The survey results are a source of pride and a badge of honor for the Israeli public during Pride Month, but the political and legal reality in Israel is shameful,” said Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev. “Israel not only denies same-sex couples the right to marry, against the clear public will, but also denies hundreds of thousands of heterosexual couples the right to family because it granted exclusive monopoly over Jewish marriages to the Orthodox Rabbinate.”

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