December 3, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Israeli president backs same-sex marriage

Shimon Peres, Israel, gay news, Washington Blade

Israeli President Shimon Peres (Photo by the World Economic Forum; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Israeli President Shimon Peres on Sunday publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“Even a person who is a homosexual is a human being, and he has rights,” he told the news website Ynetnews during an interview while he was in Mexico on a state visit. “We cannot take away someone’s rights because they are different. We cannot take away their right to breathe, right to eat or right to start a family. We must allow everyone to live as is natural to them.”

Ynetnews reported Peres’ comments came in response to questions about a bill in the Israeli parliament that seeks to extend civil partnerships to same-sex couples.

Israel recognizes legally performed same-sex marriages in other countries.

A preliminary vote on a measure that would extend tax breaks to same-sex couples with children is expected to take place later this week in the Israeli parliament. A measure that would have extended marriage rights to gays and lesbians in the country recently died in committee.

Same-sex couples are currently able to legally marry in Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Iceland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, South Africa and New Zealand. Sixteen U.S. states and D.C. and Mexico City have also extended marriage rights to gays and lesbians.

Same-sex couples will begin to exchange vows in England and Wales next year.

A bill that seeks to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Scotland cleared its first hurdle on Nov. 20. The Irish government also announced last month it will hold a referendum on the issue in 2015.

Croatian voters on Dec. 1 approved a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Peres, whose role in Israeli politics as the country’s president is largely ceremonial, spoke in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples roughly a month after nine U.S. LGBT leaders traveled to the Jewish state with the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange. Washington Blade Editor Kevin Naff is among those who took part in the week-long trip.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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