Lion wins praise from pluralists for stance on Jerusalem pride parade

Last week, the Jerusalem Municipal Council budget for the Jerusalem-based LGBT organization Open House which runs the pride parade was approved.

June 6, 2019 02:23
3 minute read.
Jerusalem’s annual gay pride parade

Participants during Jerusalem’s annual gay pride parade. (photo credit: REUTERS)

As the capital gears up for the Jerusalem pride parade on Thursday, Mayor Moshe Lion has received praise from pluralist members of his coalition for his attitude toward the event and to the concerns of the pluralist population of the city in general.

The Jerusalem Municipal Council approved the budget last week, for the Jerusalem-based LGBT organization Open House, which runs the pride parade, fulfilling promises Lion made in the course of his coalition negotiations.

The mayor publicly promised to approve the almost NIS 500,000 budget in a statement on his Facebook page, saying that he was “the mayor of all residents of the city,” and that “the budget for the Open House will be approved on Thursday, as it is every year.”

Although haredi and national-religious representatives voted against the budget item in a subcommittee, Lion promised that the full municipal council would overturn this decision and pass it, which it did, with most of the opponents simply absenting themselves from the final vote.

The mayor ignored pressure from conservative national-religious activist groups and rabbis, including Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Aryeh Stern, demanding that the city remove the gay pride flags flown along the parade route.

Following approval of the budget, Lion took to Facebook again, posting a picture of himself with four of the municipal council members who lobbied for approval of the Open House funding, stating simply, “the Open House budget for 2019 was approved!”

Although such efforts have been made and resisted in the past during Nir Barkat’s tenure as Jerusalem mayor – not to mention legal precedents rejecting demands to stop the parade or fly the flag – Lion’s refusal to countenance these actions has allayed some fears that he would take a less open stance on such matters, given that his election victory was due overwhelmingly to haredi support.

The Jerusalem Municipal Authority also fought a legal action against posters plastered around the city in recent days by the hard-line national-religious organization Hazon decrying homosexual relationships, with director of the department for public advertisements Hagar Achdut ordering the posters be removed for being offensive.

Hazon appealed the decision to the High Court of Justice, which threw out its complaint on Wednesday saying the Jerusalem Municipal Authority acted within its authority.

“He [Lion] realizes there is a large gay community in Jerusalem, as well as a large population that wants the city to be free and pluralistic and doesn’t want to submit to the demands of extremists,” said Dr. Laura Wharton, a member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council for Meretz who lobbied for the Open House funding, noting that it had been a condition for Meretz joining Lion’s coalition.

She praised Lion for keeping his promises and for having spoken out publicly in favor of approving the budget item.

“He has a lot of experience in and understands and respects the fact that we live in a country where we respect the rule of law, which means respecting the gay community too,” said Wharton. “He also wants very much to be a fair and even-handed representative of all parts of Jerusalem.”

Deputy Mayor and municipal council member Fleur Hassan-Nahoum expressed approval of Lion’s handling of the issue, saying that in the end the budget for Open House “passed without drama” because of Lion’s ability to handle his diverse coalition.

Hassan-Nahoum also praised Lion more broadly for his attitude toward the non-haredi sector of the capital and its interests.

“Former Mayor Nir Barkat significantly changed Jerusalem’s image by giving large sums of money to boost culture in the city, and bring different festivals here,” she said. “Lion has now allocated more money this year in the cultural budget than before. We don’t agree on everything, but he’s a very efficient operator. He has a few pluralistic fighters in his coalition, and he goes out of his way to ensure that we are representing our public, and he respects the need of the pluralist parties to get results for their constituents.”

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