The commander of the Jerusalem District Police, Maj.-Gen. Ilan Franco, met on Sunday with members of the Jerusalem Open House; the homosexual and lesbian rights group's annual gay pride parade in Jerusalem is set to take place June 21. Franco reiterated his letter of May 24 authorizing the parade - subject to a security assessment closer to the event date. The parade's organizers submitted their request for the permits needed to hold the event last March, but the controversial parade was fiercely opposed by the city's ultra-Orthodox residents. "This letter proves that both parties [the police and the Orthodox] have learned their lesson from last year's events, realizing that obeying the law is in everyone's best interest," said Noa Satath, director of the Open House, on Thursday. Last summer's annual parade was canceled due to violent protests and demonstrations by the ultra-Orthodox, that went largely unhindered by the police. But a scaled-down event went ahead in the capital last November 10. It passed anti-climactically after being moved to a closed area at the Hebrew University's Givat Ram stadium, were it was held under tight security. That rally was preceded by weeks of increasingly violent protests by haredim seeking to have "the abomination" called off. Over 100,000 people signed a petition against the 2006 parade, organized by Jerusalem city council member Mina Fenton of the NRP. "The holiness of the Jewish nation and of the city of Jerusalem are no less important than the holiness of Shabbat," Fenton remarked. "It is a shame and disgrace that this painful topic, which touches upon the very soul of the Jewish nation, should descend to such depths of a mere technical debate." City councilman Sa'ar Netanel said Sunday that "We must not allow violence to dictate the public agenda. Anyone who believes in democracy and human rights should march in Jerusalem." Jerusalem's annual gay pride march was first held in 2002.

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