Bill Banning Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation Passes Preliminary Knesset Vote

The vote in favor resulted from support by gay Likud Knesset member Amir Ohana, but the coalition is expected to block the bill's passage

Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade, 2018. 250,000 people participated in the parade.
Moti Milrod

The Knesset voted in favor of a bill that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation on Wednesday. If passed into law, it would apply to all anti-discriminatory laws and administrative regulations.

Although the governing coalition opposed the bill, it passed on preliminary reading by a vote of 37 to 36 after a member of the coalition, Likud Knesset member Amir Ohana, who is openly gay, voted in favor.

Likud Knesset member Amir Ohana
Moti Milrod

The legislation requires three more votes in support to become law and the coalition is expected to defeat the bill as it proceeds through the legislative process. 

Ohana suffered some harsh criticism since he beginning his term as MK, as he continued to maintain coalition discipline and did not support bills that benefit the gay community. 

Coalition chairman David Amsalem said Ohana's vote did not break coalition discipline since he allowed freedom of vote. However, a coalition member refuted Amsalem and said: "It was made clear to us that there was no freedom of vote and so I had to vote against the bill. Amsalem's words are meant to mitigate the embarrassment he's in after losing." 

Amsalem's spokesperson later clarified that he approved freedom of vote for Ohana and Kulanu MK Merav Ben Ari in the aforementioned bill.

The bill is an amendment to the Interpretation Law of 1981, which regulates how laws in Israel are interpreted. The amendment, sponsored by Joint List Knesset member Dov Khenin, expands the definition of "discrimination" in all laws and regulations relating to discrimination to include protection from discrimination due to sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill's explanatory notes state that "given the changes that have taken place in Israeli law from 1992 to today, and due to the frequent harm suffered by the LGBT community over sexual orientation and gender identity due to discrimination and harassment, the time has come to amend the Interpretation Law. Beyond its legal significance, this change also has the power to have an educational and social impact."

In reacting to the support for the bill on preliminary reading, Khenin said: "The Knesset made an important statement today. Discrimination is impermissible. People are different but they are also equal. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are impermissible, and these are things that should be obvious to any person who wants to live in a worthy society that treats human beings with respect."