Ministers Shoot Down Opposition Bills on LGBT Issues Ahead of Special Legislative Sessions

Religious parties openly refrain from sponsoring such legislation, but other coalition parties have also chosen not to act on gay rights.

The Knesset chamber.
Itzik Adari

The government has shot down six bills seeking to promote the rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community that were submitted for consideration by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday – all of which were proposed by members of the opposition in advance of special sessions on gay issues in the Knesset House Committee and the Knesset plenum on Tuesday.

Meretz MK Michal Rozin was to present two pieces of legislation to the committee, one that would require health care professionals to get training on issues involving gender and sexual orientation, and another that would regulate adoption of children by same-sex couples.

Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli was expected to submit a similar bill. Her Zionist Union colleague Tzipi Livni is slated to resubmit a bill to give legal validity to civil unions, including unions by same-sex couples. Dov Khenin of the Joint Arab List is promoting legislation to add gender identity as an aggravating circumstance in connection with the commission of hate crimes. Yael German of Yesh Atid is sponsoring a bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy seeking to shift the sexual orientation of homosexuals to heterosexuality.

None of the parties in the government coalition have submitted legislation. The religious parties in the government – Habayit Hayehudi, which is an outgrowth of the National Religious Party, and the two ultra-Orthodox parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas – have refrained from doing so as a matter of declared policy, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu have also not done so.

Likud MK Amir Ohana, who is himself gay, said Saturday that he had submitted bills addressing the needs of the community but they were not ready to be voted on. The required 45-day waiting period required by law had not elapsed, he said, so they cannot yet be submitted to the Legislation Committee. Submitting a bill, he added, is “no big deal” – it is passing legislation that counts, and that is what he said he is aiming for.

Ohana has submitted legislation that would amend the sentencing law to define crimes committed due to gender as hate crimes. The bill, he said, will provide protection to transgender individuals threatened by violence, of the kind that has surfaced several times over the past year.

The chairwomen of the forum of Knesset members on LGBT issues, Rozin, Michaeli and German, took Netanyahu and the coalition to task for what they said was a failure to act to advance the situation of the LGBT community. While the prime minister has been touting Israel’s liberalism and openness to the LGBT community to the world, the law in Israel still discriminates against the community, they said. Elsewhere in the West barriers to equality have been increasingly removed, but the Israeli government continues to maintain inequality in the country, they claimed.