NRP MK Pushes Bill to Ban Gay Pride Events in Jerusalem

MK Eliahu Gabbay (National Religious Party) is promoting legislation to allow the Jerusalem Municipality to bar homosexuals from holding gay pride events in the capital. Gabbay is even seeking to incorporate the law into the state's future constitution, and it has support in the governing coalition.

Gabbay submitted his so-called Gay Pride Bill as an amendment to the Basic Law - Jerusalem. The proposed amendment states that "the Jerusalem municipality is authorized to bar parades and processions on the grounds that they disturb public order, offend the public's sentiments or on religious grounds."

In essence, Gabbay's proposed amendments are an attempt to increase the municipality's authority. This runs contrary to several rulings by the High Court that determine that local councils do not have the authority to make decisions on religious matters, nor are they allowed to base their decisions on such considerations.

However, municipalities may receive special permission, through a delegation of authority, to deal with matters such as observing Shabbat or selling pork. Gabbay is seeking to extend the municipality's discretion to the issue of public events.

"Capital cities enjoy special status in most countries. The bill allows the city council to take into consideration the sensitivities of the special religious and social make-up in Israel's capital," the bill reads.

Should Gabbay's bill pass three readings in the Knesset, it will be considered a component of a Basic Law. As such, it is very doubtful that the High Court of Justice could overturn it. In fact, the High Court has never canceled a Basic Law. The Court would intervene and quash such a law only after becoming convinced that it constitutes a threat to democracy.

Despite this, the ministerial legislation committee approved the bill last Sunday, and so the Knesset is now expected to vote on it in the near future. The bill's approval by the committee could indicate that the coalition will vote for it. Kadima Ministers Jacob Edery and Gideon Ezra both supported the bill, as did Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beiteinu).

Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann hastened to appeal to the cabinet to reverse the approval of the bill by the committee. Kadima, as the main party in the ruling coalition, is apparently uncomfortable with the result, because it is trying to lay the blame on Labor, whose representative had failed to attend the legislation committee's meeting.

Labor, it seems, is currently the strongest opponent of the bill, and it has a fairly solid case against it. Its coalition contract with Kadima clearly states that no Basic Law is to be changed unless both partners agree on it.