Habayit Hayehudi: Yes to Civil Union, but Not for Gay Couples

'There's not a chance we'll allow civil unions for gay couples,' says senior party official.

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Habayit Hayehudi is adamantly opposed to bills by two other coalition parties that would, for the first time, grant state recognition to same-sex civil unions.

“There’s not a chance we’ll allow civil unions for gay couples, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a government-sponsored bill or a private member's bill,” a senior party official said Monday.

“We certainly recognize the need to institute civil unions in Israel, and we’re prepared to cooperate with such a move under certain conditions,” added the official, who has been involved in negotiations on the matter with Yesh Atid and Hatnuah. “But the issue of gay couples won’t happen.”

Ever since the national election in January, Habayit Hayehudi has been trying to present itself as liberal in an effort to expand its pool of secular voters and convert itself from a party seen as primarily representing the religious Zionist community to a truly national party. As a result, party representatives have been careful until now not to openly attack same-sex couples.

Even when Yesh Atid and Hatnuah made public statements about their bills, Habayit Hayehudi officials complained that they weren't being consulted, but didn’t say anything about the party's view of same-sex unions.

Nevertheless, though the party’s Knesset faction still hasn’t held an official discussion on the bills, MKs say in conversation that they have no intention of letting through civil union legislation that would apply to same-sex couples.

Sources in Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s office said Monday that they had shown the ministry’s bill, which in practice is also that of Livni’s Hatnuah party, to Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben Dahan (Habayit Hayehudi), and that he approved it and promised to get the rest of his party to back it. Habayit Hayehudi sources indignantly denied this.

“No such thing ever happened,” said one. “Ben Dahan met with people from Livni’s office and got explanations about the bill, but he never gave his blessing to the move.”

Does Habayit Hayehudi’s opposition mean the bills are doomed to failure? Under the coalition agreements, any coalition party can veto any bill relating to issues of religion and state.

But sources in Yesh Atid say they can imagine a scenario in which Habayit Hayehudi would choose not to exercise its veto.

“Civil unions aren’t a religious issue at all; they’re a civil issue,” one explained. “If we supply civic solutions to those for whom religion can’t provide an answer in any case, there’s no reason why Habayit Hayehudi shouldn’t support such a move, or at least not veto it, and thereby allow a decisive majority of the Knesset to pass the law.”

But it isn’t only Habayit Hayehudi that objects to civil unions for same-sex couples. Sources in Yisrael Beiteinu, another coalition partner, confirmed this week that it also objects to the bill. Three opposition parties oppose same-sex unions as well: the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism, and United Arab List-Ta’al.

Likud has yet to hold a faction meeting on the subject, but the ruling party is considered likely to either oppose the bills or give its members freedom to vote as they please, rather than requiring them to vote in favor. If no veto is cast, the bills seem likely to pass, with support from both coalition and opposition parties.

Israeli and Rainbow flags in Tel Aviv.Credit: Reuters

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