Rivlin shows support for gays despite haredi outrage

Knesset event attended by record number of MKs discusses rights for same-sex couples, education for tolerance toward Gay Pride Month.

June 6, 2011 18:22
2 minute read.
The Knesset adjourning for its spring break.

Knesset session 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin met on Monday with leaders of the gay community in honor of Gay Pride Month despite complaints from haredi MKs.

Gay celebrities, like pop singer Ivri Lider, and political activists attended the event, initiated for the third year in a row by MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who was joined this year by MK Nino Abesadze (Kadima). Gay teenagers sat in the audience, as did same-sex couples with their children.

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Horowitz said a record number of MKs – 18 – attended the event. MKs from Kadima, Meretz and Labor discussed strengthening rights for homosexuals and their families, as did MK Einat Wilf (Independence), the coalition’s sole representative.

Among the issues discussed was the problem same-sex couples face in finding surrogate mothers. The Surrogacy Law states that only a heterosexual couple can make use of a surrogate mother in Israel, so samesex couples are forced to travel abroad. Activists also said local schools should educate children about different kinds of families, citing examples of teachers making homophobic statements.

Rivlin made a brief speech at the event, pointing out that “some people thought I shouldn’t be here.”

He continued, “I need to be here, and I’m here, and there is no question that the Knesset respects all of Israel’s citizens, their expressions and their lifestyles.

“Freedom of expression is an inalienable right. A person should be able to live however he wants, as long as he doesn’t harm others.”

The Knesset speaker said there is “a problem in Israeli society’s perception,” but that the government “has made progress. There is no denial or refusal,” on the government’s part to recognize gays’ rights, Rivlin explained, “but the matter is very complex.”

“I came here to tell you that the Knesset accepts any group that seeks to promote its needs and rights,” Rivlin added.

On Sunday, haredi MKs expressed outrage at the event and Rivlin’s participation.

“I am astonished over the Knesset Speaker’s decision to host so-called gay families,” MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) said. “I can’t understand his motive.

Ze’ev said the Knesset should “direct these people to starting families and continue in the traditions of Judaism and of mankind,” instead of “encouraging them to go in negative directions.”

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