At the end of last week, Barack Obama announced that he supports same- sex marriages. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the first black President, who reached his current position thanks to the civil rights struggle, is the first leader in the oval office to express open, official support for equal rights when it comes to same-sex marriages.
The right to get married is one of the most fundamental civil liberties. All societies in the world are built around legally sanctioned couplehood, which comes with rights and privileges, legal custody of children and social recognition. Such sanction represents a fundamental pillar of a society that treasures equality. This being the case, there is no justification for preventing the conferral of such rights to one segment of the population.
Just a handful of Israeli politicians responded to the U.S. President's statement by expressing clear support for same-sex marriage. Almost all such politicians belong to the rapidly shrinking opposition: new opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich, Meretz head Zahava Galon and of course Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, who is a declared homosexual. The coalition politicians who expressed support were Agriculture Minister Orit Noked (Atzmaut ) and Kadima MK Nino Abesadze. Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Saturday that he favors "freedom of choice of each person regarding the sort of couple relationship he or she wants to maintain."
In contrast, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz issued a vague statement about how he understands that people of a community want to be together. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his new deputy Shaul Mofaz, President Shimon Peres and other top political figures kept mum.
According to the Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association, some 18,000 same-sex couples openly maintain family life in the country. In reality, the association says, some 100,000 people belong to this category. These include people in military service, and parents who are raising children. Yet all are barred from the fundamental right to marry. And in Israel there are many more thousands who are unable to wed: those who want to marry a partner from another religion as well as those who object to marrying in a religious service.
The huge government coalition which consolidated last week, most of whose members are secular, should correct this injustice and confer the right to marriage to people who have until now been denied this freedom.