Israeli High Court’s Shameful, Insulting Ruling on Marriage Equality

High Court's excision of support for marriage equality from PSA is deceptive, unnecessary

FILE PHOTO: Edith "Edie" Windsor reacts to cheers as she arrives for a news conference following the U.S. Supreme Court 5-4 ruling striking down as unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act June 26, 2013, in New York, U.S. on June 26, 2013.    REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
Mike Segar/REUTERS

In Israel in 2017 one cannot even dream of same-sex marriage. Thus decided the High Court of Justice, which struck down the term “to marry” from the sentence, “The right to love and to marry and to marry whom I choose, even if I’m gay,” in a public service announcement about human and civil rights by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Justice Elyakim Rubinstein explained, “With regard to the right of a same-sex couple to marry there is controversy within the Israeli public and same-sex marriages are not recognized in Israel.”

ACRI petitioned the court in February after the Second Broadcast Authority refused to withdraw its objection to parts of the PSA. The solution, the High Court said, was to delete “to marry.” Everyone has the right to be gay, but not everyone has the right to marry.

The term had to be deleted, the court said, because it violates the rule under which “a broadcast licensee shall not air advertisements that convey a controversial political, social, public policy or economic message.” By that logic, it isn’t clear why the petition was only partially disallowed. After all, the court ruled that other text in the PSA that the Second Broadcast Authority deleted, such as “the right to speak Arabic without fear” and “there is no equality, freedom, or dignity in a place that doesn’t preserve human rights,” could be broadcast. The status of Arabic is also a point of public dispute and some Israelis reject the principle of equality between Jews and Arabs and who dream of apartheid. Is it not then controversial to speak about “equality,” “freedom,” “dignity” or the right to speak Arabic?

It wouldn’t hurt the High Court to listen to the PSA that was rejected, which explains that “human rights are the rights that I deserve purely because I am a human being.” Human rights are not conditional on the will of the majority, and even if there is disagreement about how they should be interpreted, the fact that some people object to equal rights cannot negate them.

The High Court ruling portrays those who support equality and those who oppose it in a symmetrical manner. It should have ruled that even if there are people who are against marriage equality, and even if this right is not exercised, the PSA of an organization that fights for human and civil rights is not only entitled to mention it, it is obligated to do so. This is a deceptive and unnecessary ruling.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.