Jewish Journal

U.S. Supreme Court’s gay marriage rulings set Tel Aviv behind in gay-rights race

by Simone Wilson

June 26, 2013 | 10:45 am

Beach afterparty for the Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade 2013

As you best know by now, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt the LGBT community — and the civil-rights movement in general — two super-solids in a row this morning. First, our good justices struck down the hideous Defense of Marriage Act nationwide, and, five minutes later, they trashed Prop. 8, clearing the way for gay marriages to resume in California.

So, in a fit of WeHo celebration envy, I've been running from gay bar to gay beach to gay bar in Tel Aviv, trying to find someone with whom to scream bloody murder and jump up and down. (If only because now I never, ever have to write another news story on some miniscule step forward or backward in Prop. 8 court proceedings. Bitch is DEAD!)

No such luck. Closest thing I got was a coffee shop playing Britney Spears and this press statement from the Aguda, Israel's premiere gay-rights group (terribly translated by Google, in collaboration with yours truly):

This is a day of celebration for the LGBT community in the U.S., and we welcome the U.S. Supreme Court move to state the obvious: that a couple does not have to be a man and a woman for their marriage to be recognized by state. Although until recently, the State of Israel was among the advanced countries with regard to equal rights for the LGBT community, more and more Western countries recognize LGBT marriage while Israel remains behind. Today as in the past, the Aguda will continue to act on behalf of the LGBT community so that the State of Israel will recognize LGBT marriage. It is important to understand the demand for recognition of civil marriage for all citizens, including LGBT people and Israelis, by the state, which is sovereign and which imposed an end to discrimination and the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly on the institution of marriage. We want to believe that the current government, which is not bound to Orthodox religious coercion by ultra-Orthodox parties, will join the Western countries in promoting and voting for legislation that allows civil marriage for all Israeli citizens, including same-sex couples."

The organization's spokesman, Gil Kol, explained to me over the phone that "until now, Israel was considered to be one of the more advanced countries concerning LGBT rights. True, marriage was not recognized by the state, but the courts in Israel allowed, in most cases, equality between LGBT and the rest of the population. But in the last few months, there were several countries that approved LGBT marriage — and now the U.S., the most important country in the Western world, has approved it as well."

He added: "Israel was pretty much ahead of the rest of the Western world — but now we are somewhat behind."

Although Israel's Ministry of Tourism has tossed many a shekel toward branding Tel Aviv as the gay capital of the Middle East, and even the world — and hey, American Airlines pollsters agree! — the religious aspects of Israeli society, inherent to the country's foundation, are a constant obstacle.

"Because marriage and family values are such big issues for religious parties, those particular subjects — marriage, adoption and so on — are still lacking in LGBT equality here," said Kol.

Still, a victory for gay rights in the U.S. is obviously a victory for humanity, and these historic rulings are much bigger than a country-by-country competition. Kol said his organization is currently fighting to push same-sex marriage — under the umbrella of all civil marriage, which is actually illegal here — through Israel's parliament, the Knesset, during the current session. There's an exciting possibility that it will actually get somewhere this time, as there are currently no ultra-Orthodox members of the Israeli government.

And the U.S. rulings, said Kol, will no doubt "help us prove a point."

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Simone Wilson is a 26-year-old journalist from Northern California currently living in Tel Aviv, Israel. She served as editor in chief of UC San Diego’s student newspaper, the...

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