The Israeli Knesset is set to consider
granting gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.
Horowitz of the Jewish left-leaning Meretz party has proposed a gay
marriage bill on the first day of the new Knesset, reports Haaretz
Horowitz's bill is
a response to the Yisrael Beitenu Party-backed bill that would create
unions regardless of religion or ethnic background. Horowitz's bill
goes further by adding a gender neutral clause.
Israel is one of a
handful of countries that does not offer civil marriages. Only
religious authorities can sanction a marriage.
“In 2009 Israel,
there is no reason we should have to force people to get married on
the steps of the rabbinate or on the steps of a city hall,”
Horowitz said in a statement introducing his bill.
Being gay is
illegal throughout much of the Middle East, where many societies
remain rabidly homophobic, but gays and lesbians have steadily won
rights in Israel. Gay couples are considered “married” through
common law marriages, but there is no official matrimony. The
Israeli military allows open service and gay couples have access to
Openly gay Meretz
MK Horowitz, whose journalism career began with radio reporting on
the 1982 Lebanon war and ended producing social issue documentaries
for television, said the Yisrael Beitenu plan would define marriage
solely as a heterosexual union.
Yisrael Beitenu's civil unions would prevent the recognition of
couples of the same sex,” Horowitz wrote in a blog post. “In
recent years, couples of the same sex have gained wide legal
recognition involving matrimonial aspects of life, but if Yisrael
Beitenu's bill passes, tens of thousands of couples of the same sex
will be discriminated against in a severe way.”
But the viability
of the bill remains in question. The Meretz Party holds only 3 of
the 120 Knesset seats. And opposition to the heterosexual-only
Yisrael Beitenu bill remains strong.
Horowitz is the
second openly gay Knesset member in Israeli history. Former Meretz
MK Uzi Even was the first.
Only six countries
allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Sweden is likely to become
the seventh in May.