(photo credit: REUTERS)
A public service announcement celebrating Arab and LGBT equality cannot be banned, but the part of the advertisement emphasizing gay marriage can be, the High Court of Justice ruled.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel petitioned the court in February after the Second Authority for Television and Radio refused to overturn its ban on the ad in support of same-sex marriage and speaking Arabic in Israel.
The court partially upheld the petition last week, ruling that the ad be reinstated apart from its reference to the idea of gay marriage, ordering the words “to marry” to be deleted from the sentence “the right to love, to marry even if I’m gay.”
A panel of three justices accepted the argument by the ACRI that the message of promoting human rights cannot be considered controversial in a democratic country, and agreed that the broadcasting authority should not disqualify sentences such as “The right to speak Arabic without being afraid” and “The right to love, even if I’m gay.”
However, just-retired justice Elyakim Rubinstein, Justice Hanan Melcer and Justice Anat Baron upheld the authority’s disqualification of the word “marriage” which refers to same-sex marriage, saying that samesex marriage is Israel is still very much in dispute. Rubinstein reached the mandatory retirement age for judges of 70 in June, but continues to sit on cases he began hearing before then.
The ad was produced ahead of International Human Rights Day, which is marked annually on December 10, and features celebrities talking about rights that are important to them.
Israeli-Arab celebrity Mira Awad appears saying that it is important to her to be able to speak Arabic without being afraid.
LGBT activist Adir Steiner declares that he has the right to love and to get married, even if he is gay.
The ad was broadcast on Channel 2, but the authority later decided that it includes controversial issues, which its own rules prohibit. In that light, the authority banned the ad until the disqualified sentences were removed.
The petition noted that over a decade ago, the High Court instructed the Interior Ministry to register as married a same-sex couple who had married abroad and that this is a recognized right in Israel. Similarly, Arabic is an official language in the State of Israel and public authorities are required to use it, the petition argued.
However, the High Court recently ruled against recognizing same-sex marriage as a general right, stating that since the issue is in dispute within different sectors of society, it must be resolved by the Knesset.
Rubinstein specifically distinguished recognizing that general right from registering same-sex marriages that took place outside of the country.
Attorney Dan Yakir, ACRI’s legal adviser, responded to the ruling, saying, “By accepting ACRI’s petition, the High Court has not only defended ACRI’s freedom of expression to present its position on television, but it has also defended the public’s right to be exposed to the message of human rights for all humans – including the right to speak Arabic and the right of same-sex couples to recognition.
“As Justice Baron noted, we cannot accept the position that ‘a public service announcement that promotes human rights will constitute a controversial social and political message; recognition of and commitment to human rights are inherently related to the very existence of a democratic society.’”
He added: “It is regrettable that the High Court approved the disqualification of the word ‘marriage.’ The right of same-sex couples to marry is a basic right. The public service announcement did not discuss how this right should be implemented in Israel... there was no cause to disqualify it.”