Jerusalem LGBTQ Center Sues City Over Budget Discrimination

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The 2019 Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem.
The 2019 Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem.Credit: Emil Salman

The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, which runs a center for the local LGBTQ community, has filed a lawsuit this week against the municipality claiming it was being discriminated against in the city budget.

The nonprofit said the city had acted illegally when it did not discuss its request for support this year, according to a petition filed with the Jerusalem District Court.

It further argued the city determines the scope of budgetary support according to unclear and discriminatory criteria. The Jerusalem municipality responded that it will “study the lawsuit and respond in court.”

According to the Interior Ministry’s regulations for municipal support for community organizations, a hearing must be held before approving budget allocations.

Jerusalem this year decided to simply copy the budget from 2019. As a result, the Open House received only about 500,000 shekels (about $147,000), even though it requested 1.2 million shekels. “This was an illegal process in the crudest way,” said Gilad Barnea, the lawyer representing the Open House.

According to the lawsuit, copying the budget from the previous year is in practice “a de facto rejection of the support request without any discussion on it being held.”

The Open House also said the city created unclear and unreasonable funding criteria that discriminate against the organization. The funding criteria for community centers usually include baseline support and then support per number of people in the neighborhood, the neighborhood's socioeconomic ranking and the scope of activities provided by the center.

The Open House, however, was measured according to only a single criterion: The number of people participating in its activities at least once a week, and documentation of their national ID numbers. The petition states that no rules exist for how to calculate the financial support based on such criteria – and that the criteria itself is discriminatory.

Eran Globus, the chairperson of the Open House, said “all the attempts for dialogue failed and we were left with no choice but to go to court.” The city is harshly discriminating against the LGBTQ community and has critically damaged the essential services the Open House provides, he added.

In June, ahead of a Pride rally in the city, a High Court of Justice petition filed by the Open House demanded that the municipality put up Pride flags in the city as it does every year, despite pressure by right-wing activists and Deputy Mayor Arieh King. Open House said that this year the city made do with five symbolic flags instead of the usual 90.

“Once again, we encounter an insensitive municipality that doesn’t even bother to fake an egalitarian attitude,” said Noam Yavin, spokeswoman for the Open House. “The municipality made an irresponsible decision in an embarrassing attempt to erase the visibility of the gay community.”

A week earlier, Jerusalem city inspectors removed a large sign of support by the American Embassy for the event, which was returned after embassy officials protested its removal.

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