Israel’s parliament has rejected a marriage equality bill put forward by a gay MP.
The bill put forward by Nitzan Horowitz, of the left-wing Meretz party, would have allowed same-sex as well as inter-faith couples to wed. Marriage in Israel is an exclusively religious affair.
Horowitz said the coalition government had betrayed secular voters by pandering to right-wing religious extremists.
Horowitz wrote on his Facebook page:
Here, there is no civil marriage here at all, and hundred of thousands of Israelis – not only gay men and lesbians – can not get married here because of the unbearable religious coercion. This can change.
The bill was backed by the liberal newspaper Haaretz, which argued that “there is no justification for preventing the conferral of such rights to one segment of the population.”
The bill’s rejection follows comments by U.S. President Barack Obama in support of same-sex marriage sparking a debate among Israeli ministers and MKs (members of parliament).
There is no civil marriage in Israel for Jews. The rabbinate, which has jurisdiction over the marriage and divorce of Jews, does not recognize gay marriage. The Interior Ministry, however, is required to register same-sex marriages performed abroad following a 2006 Supreme Court decision. Same-sex couples in Israel can access nearly all of the rights of marriage in the form of unregistered cohabitation status, akin to common-law marriage.
According to Dan Littauer, executive editor of Gay Middle East news website, progress for LGBT people in Israel has almost exclusively come through the courts rather than through legislative action.
Gay Middle East editor in Israel, Shabi Gatenio, told Gay Star News that the Israeli government has been rejecting gay rights for decades:
“It is a hypocrisy,” he said, “that this government, this prime minister and foreign minister have objected to every pro-gay law we have wanted to pass but are flagging up its positive record on gay rights abroad.”
According to a 2009 poll, 61% of Israelis support marriage equality.
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