Israel´s Finance Minister: Gay marriage not in Israel´s near future (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Jonathan Lis, Ophir Bar-Zohar and Ilan Lior 05/11/12)
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Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Thursday that Israel is
unlikely to recognize same-sex marriage in the foreseeable future.
His remarks, to a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group within
the Likud party, followed remarks on Wednesday by U.S. President
Barack Obama in support of same-sex marriages.
Steinitz said, referring to a possible move to support same-sex
marriage here, "I don´t see that happening in the State of Israel in
the near future." He did, however, tell 25 members of the Likud LGBT
group, established five months ago, that he was reconsidering his
opposition to such a measure.
"Today, I understand that issue much more than in the past. I´m not
totally against it like I used to, but I´m not saying I´m totally for
it," he added.
When one participant asked Steinitz whether he would be the first
Likud minister to come to Tel Aviv´s annual gay pride parade the
finance minister was visibly embarrassed. He told aides to note the
date but made no promises.
He also refused to say whether the new unity government would advance
gay rights issues, noting, "We have all kinds of coalition partners."
Group members praised Steinitz for being the first minister to meet
with them, and applauded his remarks several times during the
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.
Agriculture Minister Orit Noked (Atzmaut ) expressed support for the
right of gays and lesbians to marry. She expressed the hope that gay
marriages will soon be performed in Israel. She appealed a decision
by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation that withheld government
support for a bill that would enshrine a ban against discrimination
based on sexual orientation or gender identity in law. The bill was
sponsored by Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz.
Opposition chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich expressed her support for the
move on her Facebook page, and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid told
Haaretz in response to a query that he was in favor of it.
Noked has expressed an interest in having the ministerial committee
revisit the issue and in mobilizing majority support for its
passage. "Discrimination based on sexual orientation is identical in
substance and in its consequences to any of the other forms of
discrimination barred by law," she said, "and it has no place in the
Israel of 2012. We will see to it that the phenomenon is rooted out,
and we´ll send an important educational message to all Israelis
calling for tolerance and respect for the other."
Most cabinet members and aides declined requests for the ministers´
position on gay marriage, or ignored inquiries from Haaretz.
Kadima leader and Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, Tourism Minister
Stas Misezhnikov and the minister for improvement of government
services, Michael Eitan, refused to state their positions. Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat,
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor and Environmental Protection
Minister Gilad Erdan did not respond to requests for comment from
A number of U.S. Jewish groups praised President Obama´s endorsement
of gay marriage, and an Orthodox group said it was "disappointed."
"History will regard his affirmation of this core right for the LGBT
community as a key moment in the advance of civil rights in America,"
the Reform movement´s Religious Action Center said in a statement
Wednesday. "While the President has long publicly supported civil
unions, these are distinct from full marriage rights."
The statement cited court precedents affirming marriage as a civil
"These rights are due no less to same-sex couples than heterosexual
ones, as the President´s comments today acknowledge," it said.
Also praising the president´s endorsement made Wednesday in an
interview with ABC were the National Council of Jewish Women,
Hadassah, the National Jewish Democratic Council and the United
Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
The Orthodox Union, however, said it was "disappointed."
"While Judaism also teaches respect for others and condemns
discrimination we, as Orthodox Jewish leaders, oppose any effort to
change the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions," it
said in a statement.
However, the OU statement also "appreciated" Obama´s support for laws
that carefully protect institutions that dissent from same-sex
Agudath Israel of America, another Orthodox umbrella body, did not
directly address Obama´s statement, noting that it was a "personal
Obama did not accompany his endorsement with any legislative
initiative, and he has said that the matter should be left up to the
However, Agudah blasted the National Jewish Democratic Council for
describing Obama´s statement as advancing "tikkun olam," or the
Jewish imperative to make the world a better place.
"To imply that a religious value like ´tikkun olam´ and by
association, Judaism is somehow implicated in a position like the one
the president articulated, is outrageous, offensive and wrong,"
Agudah said. "We hereby state, clearly and without qualification,
that the Torah forbids homosexual acts, and sanctions only the union
of a man and a woman in matrimony."
NJDC Chair Marc Stanley referenced Obama´s "unmatched record of
progress in favor of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans."
"President Obama has admirably continued to demonstrate the values of
tikkun olam in his work to make America a better place for all
Americans," Stanley said. "I am truly proud of President Obama and
know that so many others in the Jewish community share my feelings.
The Republican Jewish Coalition highlighted the OU and Agudah views
on Twitter. Pressed by a Democratic activist on Tweeter, however, the
RJC said it did not necessarily support the views, adding, "But we do
acknowledge that Orthodox Jews and traditional Jewish views exist."
(© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 05/11/12)
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