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Israel Marks First-Ever LGBT Rights Day

TEL AVIV – The Israeli Knesset held its first-ever LGBT Rights Day on Tuesday with support from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the heels of a report indicating an increase in  homophobic incidents in the country.

The prime minister addressed the Knesset event:

I know that there were important and lengthy discussions today, and I came here in the middle of my schedule, which was no less busy, to say one sentence to the members of the LGBT community: “Every man was created in the image of God.” That is the idea brought by our nation to mankind thousands of years ago, and it is the principle that must guide our national lives today.

According to the report commissioned by the LGBT association a day before the event, 256 complaints of harassment were reported in 2015, marking a 54% increase from 2014.

MK Amir Ohana, Israel’s first gay lawmaker from the ruling Likud party, told the plenum that the LGBT community is 10% of the population and he charged they are discriminated against under law.

“They cannot get married in their country, bring children into the world [via surrogacy] in their country, be their partners’ heir if he or she dies, and not because they are hostile to the state, do not serve in the army or pay taxes, rather, because they are gay or lesbian,” Ohana said.

Comparing the LGBT community to the Jewish people, Ohana argued that they are “hated for no reason, persecuted, discriminated against, and face forced conversion.”

“What did they do wrong that so many people hate them, sometimes to death?” he asked.

Ohana further commented on the presence of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Knesset members at the committee, saying he believes,

Change is occurring at all levels, even with them. If in the past we heard them say things like “we will deal with [the LGBT community] like we deal with bird flu,” today, there is a different discussion. We still aren’t on the same page, and there are difficulties within the coalition regarding pro-LGBT legislation. But I’m certain that now it’s not a question of if, but of when. As in the struggle of African-Americans for freedom and equality, and as in women’s struggle for rights, we will continue and eventually arrive at the final destination – equality and freedom for all.

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