Lesbian Couple Awarded NIS 60,000 After Wedding Hall Turned Them Away

Event space management feared they would insult their neighbors, mainly messianic Jews and evangelical Christians

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Tal Yakobovich and Yael Biran.
Tal Yakobovich and Yael Biran.
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

The Jerusalem District Court has upheld a lower court’s ruling ordering an events hall to pay compensation to a lesbian couple, after the venue’s operators refused to let them hold their wedding reception at the hall because of the women’s sexual orientation. The district court ruled that the banquet hall’s refusal violated the law prohibiting discrimination in the provision of goods and services, and entry to places of entertainment and public sites.

Judge Moshe Yoad Cohen rejected the defendant’s argument, according to which the members of the cooperative community in which the event space was located, Moshav Yad Hashmonaim – a large majority of whom are messianic Jews and evangelical Christians – have the right to avoid hosting events that conflict with their religious beliefs.

The judge upheld the verdict of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, ordering the event space to pay the couple, Tal Yakobovich and Yael Biran, damages of 60,000 shekels ($17,000) plus 30,000 shekels for attorneys’ fees for both the original suit and the appeal.

“There is no disputing that the appellant is providing a public service, and that its refusal to host the wedding reception was based on the sexual orientation” of the plaintiffs, Yoad Cohen wrote in his ruling.

Yakobovich and Biran married in a civil ceremony in Britain in 2008, after which they sought to hold a reception for family and friends in Israel. They contracted to hold the party at Yad Hashmonaim, but after the owners realized the nature of the event, they informed the couple that they do not allow same-sex celebrations to be held on the premises and canceled the women’s reservation. In the end, Yakobovich and Tal held their party at Kibbutz Tzuba. They later sued the Yad Hashmona events space through the offices of Ira Hadar, an attorney specializing in GLBTQ rights.

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