Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz agreed Thursday to significantly increase the state budget for psychological-social services for the LGBT community, after being approached on the matter by MK Amir Ohana (Likud). An openly gay Knesset member, Ohana drew harsh criticism on Wednesday after absenting himself from the votes on four opposition-sponsored bills for the benefit of the gay community.
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Imri Kalman, chairman of The Aguda – the Israeli National LGBT Task Force, spoke with Ohana on Thursday and informed him that the psychological service for the LGBT community was in financial trouble and needed additional funds.
Ohana approached Katz (also Likud), who decided to increase the service’s budget to some 400,000 shekels ($102,400) – nearly double the previous amount.
The service was established after a double murder at the Bar Noar gay youth club in Tel Aviv almost seven years ago. It is intended to help people within the LGBT community exhibiting suicidal tendencies, as well as other psychological problems.
“I am committed to act on behalf of the LGBT community and will do so in my way – not the way of the opposition, which, unfortunately, chose to raise legislative proposals without a chance,” said Ohana, defending his actions.
“This is one step in the right direction, and it is possible to accomplish other important achievements without dancing to the tune of the opposition,” he added. “I welcome the decision of the social affairs minister and think it will truly save lives.”
On Wednesday, the coalition, along with some members of the opposition, voted down a number of bills intended to improve the status of members of the LGBT community.
Ohana left the Knesset plenum before the vote, after arranging in advance to offset his vote with that of an MK from the opposition. His Likud colleague Sharren Haskel, who chairs the caucus in the Knesset supporting gay rights, voted against the bills. Both Likud MKs toed the party line and opted not to go against the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which refused to back the bills.
In addition to the conservative members of the present government coalition – including Habayit Hayehudi and the ultra-Orthodox parties United Torah Judaism and Shas – the MKs of Yisrael Beiteinu were also absent from the vote to support the bills, as were most Arab MKs.
Other opposition MKs agreed to offset their votes with those of coalition MKs, which left quite a number of empty seats during the voting. For example, Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) sponsored a bill to legally recognize civil unions, including those by same-sex couples. This was rejected by 47 votes to 40. Another bill, which called for health-care professionals to receive training on issues involving gender and sexual orientation, fell by a margin of 11 votes, even though the coalition only outnumbers the opposition by two Knesset seats.