Gay pride - Gil Cohen-Magen - May 10, 2012
LGBT demonstrators march during last summer's social protests. Photo by Gil Cohen-Magen
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Israel's LGBT community praised U.S. President Barak Obama on Thursday for expressing his support for same-sex marriages.

In an interview that aired Wednesday with ABC, Obama stated he had personally concluded that same sex couples should be able to get married.

Irit Rosenblum, founder and CEO of the organization New Family, called the move extremely important. "It is a huge step for the enlightened world that the strongest leader publicly recognizes the new family. In doing so, he is obviously posing a challenge to the world's religious public. I think that this is certainly a very brave act. He is creating the necessary world balance. At a time when it seems the world is becoming increasingly fundamentalist and conservative, this is a liberal point of light."

According to New Family, there are currently some 18,000 same-sex families living in Israel. Some 4,500 children are being raising in same-sex families, and that number has risen significantly in recent years.

Same-sex couples are unable to marry according to Israeli law. Many choose to travel abroad to countries that do allow gay marriage. The leading such destinations are Canada and several U.S. states. Israel's High Court of Justice has ruled that the Interior Ministry must recognize these marriages in Israel.

“In Israel, there has not been one prominent politician that dared to say such things,” Rosenblum said. “Perhaps now there will be more power to create laws that will enable us to make all the necessary improvements. Today, we do not have the political foundations for anyone to even deal with this issue. There is a criminal neglect of the entire social realm.”

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) has proposed a bill, which will come up for a vote in the Knesset next week, which would allow for civil marriages in Israel, including between members of the same sex.

"For the first time ever, an American president supports marriage between partners of the same sex. This is already the case in dozens of states, but not [in Israel]. By the way, here there is no civil marriage at all, and hundreds of thousands of Israelis – not only gays and lesbians – cannot get married here because of intolerable religious coercion. This must change," Horowitz wrote on Thursday on his Facebook page.

Itay Pinkas, chairman of Tel Aviv's gay community center, also joined in praising Obama, Pinkas further criticized the situation of the LGBT community in Israel. “The only two leaders to bring up the rights of the community in a congressional speech were Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama spoke of the importance of equality during his inauguration speech…he is one of the heads of state most supportive of equality for all citizens.”

Anti-Defamation League's leaders said in a statement: "We strongly welcome the President’s endorsement of same-sex marriage equality. It is a significant and historic step forward in the pursuit of equal opportunity, individual liberty and freedom from discrimination, and underscores the fact that no American should be denied access to the benefits of civil marriage because of his or her sexual orientation. All citizens should be entitled to the same rights, protections and benefits."

Read this article in Hebrew