Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party sits with other ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government during a Knesset session, November 23.
The opposition put a series of gay rights bills to a vote Wednesday, hoping to embarrass coalition members who took an active part in the Knesset’s first-ever LGBT Rights Day the day before.
Bills proposed by Zionist Union and Meretz MKs allowing gay civil unions and same-sex couples to adopt, educating health professionals about gender identity and sexual orientation, prohibiting “conversion therapy” aimed at changing someone’s sexual orientation, and giving samesex partners of an IDF soldier killed in action the benefits heterosexual widows or widowers would get were all voted down in preliminary readings.
In some of the cases, the responding government representative pointed out that the Ministerial Committee for Legislation had not yet voted on the bill. In other words, it could have had a chance to pass, had the opposition MKs waited.
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, in his response to Meretz MK Michal Rozin’s bill on educating health professionals, said “I oppose, and that is all...
The nation had its say, and we are in the coalition, not you.”
Litzman also mentioned that the sin of the golden calf is in this week’s Torah portion, implying a similarity between that and homosexuality.
Rozin said Litzman is not doing his job as health minister for all Israelis.
“If you know there is a problem, something is lacking, there is discrimination and disrespect that makes people sicker and God forbid leads to deaths, you cannot stand here and preach to us about the golden calf... What you did here is not Jewish and not humane,” she responded.
Rozin and the other two chairwoman of the Knesset Gay Pride Caucus, MKs Yael German (Yesh Atid) and Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) said: “We condemn and are shocked by Litzman’s comments and he should learn about democracy.
From the moment he was elected, he is committed to serve the entire population, and his homophobic stances cannot guide the ministry’s policies.”
As for the coalition voting down the bills, Michaeli said, “Just yesterday, the prime minister spoke in the plenum, in a discussion dedicated to the rights of the gay community in Israel, spoke with pathos about his commitment to the principle that ‘every person was created in the image of God,’ and today his coalition rejected all the bills the opposition proposed that are meant to implement the principle in reality.
“We are not surprised by the gap between Netanyahu’s ‘vision’ and his actions, but it is frustrating to see each time how, in the name of coalition discipline, MKs vote against their conscience,” she added.
The Zionist Union’s spokesman pointed out that MK Sharren Haskel (Likud), a co-chairwoman of the Knesset’s Gay Pride caucus, voted against the bills and said that Culture Minister Miri Regev, who has spoken out in support of gay rights, was absent during voting, as was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said she’s glad that Amir Ohana, the Likud’s first gay MK, is in the Knesset, and that there are politicians on the right, including the prime minister, giving the gay community legitimacy and acceptance, but that is not enough.
“The country must give them rights,” she stated. “We will keep fighting, until this government stands behind its words.”
Ohana received permission from coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) to skip the votes. His spokesman said in response to the opposition’s criticism that the bills were voted down by a large margin, so there would be no point in defying coalition discipline and facing sanctions as a result.
Also Wednesday, the Knesset voted against legislation by MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) that would prohibit parties to run for seats in the Knesset if they do not have people of both genders on their lists.
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