LGBT Rights Bill Falls as Lawmakers From Gantz's Party Abstain

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Participants at a pride rally in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, June 28, 2020.
Participants at a pride rally in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, June 28, 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani

Members of Defense Minister Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party abstained Wednesday from the Knesset vote on a bill that would have taken a step towards equalizing the status of LGBT families. The bill did not pass.

The opposition Yesh Atid party pressured Kahol Lavan members over the past 24 hours to support the proposal, which would in effect recognize same-sex partners. Initiated by MK Yorai Lahav Hertzanu, the bill would instruct all official forms to refer to "Parent 1" and "Parent 2" instead of "Father" and "Mother."

Following the vote, Lahav Herzanu issued a response saying "I didn't ask for equal rights and I didn't ask to create a new reality – bottom line, I asked for recognition of a reality that exists, according to which Israel has many kinds of families.

"But it seems like that's still too much for Kahol Lavan and Likud, they couldn't give us even this minimum. Next time Benny Gantz and Avi Nissenkorn come asking for votes from members of the LGBT community, remember today, remember who shot down the bill."  

Twenty-five Knesset members from from Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beiteinu, Meretz and Labor, voted for the measure; one Kahol Lavan member, Eitan Ginzburg, also voted in favor. Voting against were 48, from Likud, the predominantly Arab Joint List, ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, Yamina and Habayit Hayehudi,  

Although Kahol Lavan members have expressed support in the past for legislation that would equalize the status of LGBT families, the party is beholden to coalition discipline. Because the coalition's ultra-Orthodox parties oppose the measure, members chose to abstain from voting.

Yesh Atid is trying take advantage of their absence to embarrass Kahol Lavan, positioning them as selling out their promise to voters in favor of forming a Netanyahu government.

At the same time, Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich is expected to bring a proposal to a vote to form a parliamentary investigative committee into judges' conflicts of interests. Likud members are expected to abstain from the vote, but Yamina hopes that a handful of them will show up to the Knesset plenum and support the proposal anyway, despite Kahol Lavan's opposition to the measure.

After Likud officially decided to abstain from the vote, Smotrich responded by saying that "Likud is a friend to [Yesh Atid Chairman] Yair Lapid and the left in its inexplicable protection of the legal system's control of the State of Israel." He added, "This is a sad day for the State of Israel, and a sad day for the right." 

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