Schneller: Ban gays from Knesset

Fellow Kadima Mk Ronit Tirosh: Request "brings Israel back to the Middle Ages."

schneller 88 (photo credit: )
schneller 88
(photo credit: )
In a rare intra-party clash, Kadima MKs sparred Thursday over the issue of homosexual youth groups visiting the Knesset. Although Kadima is comprised of MKs from a variety of political and social backgrounds, party leaders dating back to founder Ariel Sharon have requested that the MKs be "a different type of party" and refrain from the type of inter-party disputes that caused Sharon to leave Likud to form Kadima in the first place. On Thursday, however, the different ideological backgrounds came out in full force, as MKs clashed over the issue of gay rights. The issue began when MK Otniel Schneller sent a letter to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik Thursday morning requesting that the Knesset cancel the scheduled visits of several homosexual youth groups. Those groups, who plan to visit during early August to mark International Gay Pride Week, might also appear before several committees to discuss gay rights issues. In his letter, Schneller said that while he supported youths educating themselves in liberalism and democracy, such a visit would turn the Knesset into "Sodom and Gomorrah." "They should conduct their lives in their homes, and not visit the Knesset as a group," said Schneller in the letter. In response, MK Ronit Tirosh said Schneller's request brought Israel back into the "darkest periods of the Middle Ages." "These are children who could be mine or yours. I am absolutely stunned. Who are we talking about here? We're talking about human beings. If they want to visit me in the Knesset they are more than welcome," Tirosh said on a morning radio interview. "The parliament must act as a model of tolerance. There are no legal or humane grounds with which to ban them." A spokesman for the Knesset, confirming that Itzik had received the letter, also said that there were no legal grounds to ban the groups. "The Knesset is a public institution and has always welcomed all people to come and visit," said the spokesman. "In the past ten years, since I've been in the Knesset, homosexual and lesbian groups have always visited the Knesset." The last petition against homosexual groups about seven years ago, when a group of religious MKs sent a similar letter to Knesset officials. That letter was rejected by the Knesset speaker at the time. The head of Israel's Association of Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgenders (AGUDAH), responded to Schneller's remarks by saying, "We are talking about simple homophobia, blind hate and the lack of ability to accept anything different."