The government is radically increasing ministry funding to meet the specific needs of the LGBT community, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon announced Wednesday. A leading LGBT nonprofit called the move historic.
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Kahlon agreed to give various ministries 10 million shekels ($2.65 million) annually over the next two years.
“The choice to assign budgets to various government ministries lets the gay community broaden its activity on different issues on our agenda,” said Ohad Hizki, director of the Israeli National LGBT Task Force (Aguda). “There’s no doubt that this is a significant milestone on the gay community’s road to living equally in Israel,” he added.
The sharp increase in government funding follows a protest sparked by a Tourism Ministry plan in April to allocate 11 million shekels to encourage gay tourism to Israel, while the government was giving less than 2 million shekels annually to all the country’s LGBT organizations. Kahlon met with representatives of the gay organizations in May and promised to increase their funding.
The finance minister said Wednesday that the approved plan includes 1.5 million shekels to the Social Affairs Ministry for gay centers, support groups for members of the LGBT community and their families, and emergency frameworks for lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual individuals who are thrown out of their homes.
The Education Ministry will receive 5 million shekels to run an educational project in schools and provide funding to gay student groups on college and university campuses.
Another 2.5 million shekels will go to the Social Equality Ministry for information programs to combat discrimination against the gay community.
Additional budgets will be given to provide more personnel for the committee at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, that approves gender reassignments. The panel currently operates on a solely voluntary basis.
The Health Ministry will also be given money to examine the possibility of accepting blood donations from gay people.
Kahlon said he had instructed the Israel Tax Authority to conduct training sessions to assimilate the rules relating to credit points for children of same-sex couples. It was also agreed that each government ministry will appoint someone to be responsible for preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“National policy must be color-blind and serve the person as a person, irrespective of religion, race, gender or sexual orientation,” Kahlon said. “I hope that the agreement, reached with the help of MK Merav Ben Ari [Kulanu], will correct the years-long injustice against the community, if only a little.”
However, some demands that the LGBT community made after the Tourism Ministry dispute have yet to be addressed. At the time, LGBT community leaders demanded that the government publicly support equal rights for the LGBT community, including through legislation; to guarantee gay people full access to surrogate births and adoptions both in Israel and abroad; to recognize gay families for naturalization purposes; and to ban conversion therapy — treatment designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual — for minors.