Knesset Scraps Bills for LGBT Community After Marking Gay Rights Day

Likud's Amir Ohana, the party's first gay lawmaker, left the plenum without voting.

Participants walk near the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, during a gay pride parade in Jerusalem.
Reuters

A day after marking its first ever LGBT rights day, the Knesset on Wednesday shot down a number of bills aimed at improving the gay community's status. Several opposition members joined the coalition in voting against the bills.

Two coalition MKs purporting to advance gay rights lent a hand to thwarting the bills. MK Amir Ohana (Likud), the first openly gay right-wing lawmaker, left the plenum without voting, while MK Sharren Haskel (Likud), head of the LGBT Knesset caucus, voted against the bills.

The bills, proposed by opposition members only, addressed a variety of gay issues and needs. MKs Merav Michaeli and Revital Swid (Zionist Union) submitted proposals to recognize a bereaved widower in same sex couples as well. MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) submitted a bill banning conversion therapy attempting to convert gays to heterosexuals. MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) submitted a bill to recognize a same-sex marriage contract and MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) submitted a bill to train health professionals to deal with gender and sexual inclination issues.

Amir Ohana at a Likud rally following the announcement of the election results, March 17, 2015.
Tomer Appelbaum

Ohana said that when he was sworn in he had said he was committed to toe the party line and would not support bills advancing gay rights if the ministerial legislation committee opposed them. On Sunday, the committee struck down six bills the opposition MKs had submitted.

"I told the coalition chairman yesterday that I won't vote with the coalition against the pro-gay bills today. Coalition members are bound to coalition discipline, but contrary to what I said, I felt I couldn't vote against the gay community, against myself," Ohana said Wednesday.

Ohana said he has fought prejudices against gay people all his life and intends to continue doing so in the future. Nonetheless, he refrained from supporting the bills for gay rights "because the result wouldn't have been any different. None of the proposals fell because it was one vote short. Also, I would have been penalized, and rightly so."

Opposition MKs from Yisrael Beiteinu and most of the Arab MKs did not come to vote for their colleagues' bills. Several other opposition members made mutual agreements with coalition members to absent themselves from the vote.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) said he objected to one of the bills because the weekly Torah portion dealt with the golden calf and the Israeli people's sin. "The nation had its say that we're in the coalition and not you," he said.

Rozin, who sponsored the bill to train health professionals to deal with gay issues, said in response, "you're betraying your duty as health minister of all of Israel. I didn't ask you to be minister for gays and lesbians. What you did here was neither Jewish nor humane."