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Netanyahu postpones efforts to reform Israel’s judiciary

LGBTQ, intersex rights groups part of nationwide protest movement

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LGBTQ and intersex activists participate in a protest against proposed reforms to Israel's judiciary. (Photo courtesy of George Avni)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday announced he has postponed efforts to reform the country’s judicial system.

The announcement, which Netanyahu made during a prime-time speech, came after a nationwide strike paralyzed the country. 

Netanyahu on Saturday fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after he publicly criticized the proposed reforms. Asaf Zamir, the Israeli consul general in New York, resigned in protest.

Elad Strohmayer, the openly gay spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in D.C., on Monday in a tweet acknowledged the embassy will be closed “today until further notice and no consular services will be provided.” The embassy has since reopened.

“Today (3/27), the Histadrut, Israel’s largest labor union, instructed all government employees to go on strike, including Israel’s diplomatic missions around the world,” tweeted Strohmayer.

The Associated Press notes the proposed reforms would “increase” the coalition government’s “control over judicial appointments and diminish the (Israeli) Supreme Court’s ability to strike down laws” the Knesset approves. 

Netanyahu’s coalition government took office in December. 

Critics of the proposed reforms, among other things, have noted Netanyahu is pushing for the proposed reforms in order to avoid his conviction on fraud and corruption charges for which he is currently on trial.  

WDG, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel, has reported LGBTQ and intersex people and advocacy groups have joined the protest movement against what has been described as an attempted “coup d’état” since it began in January. Aguda Chair Hila Peer during a demonstration that took place in Tel Aviv earlier this month said the current “government has a clear agenda and the LGBTQ community is one of the first in line.”

“This is not legal reform, it is a gun that is being held to the head of the LGBTQ community. They are destroying the only body that protects human rights, so that later they can enact whatever they want against us,” said Peer. “This government has brought up the worst haters of freedom, of equality and of the LGBTQ community, It gave them power over our families, over our rights. We faced crazier, meaner, more violent and broke every closet they ever dared to try build for us.”

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Middle East

Tel Aviv authorities cancel Pride parade

‘This is not the time for celebrations’

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Tel Aviv's 2023 Pride parade (Photo courtesy of Shlomi Yosef/Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality)

WDG is the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel. This article originally ran on their website on Wednesday.

Tel Aviv-Yafo authorities on Wednesday announced the cancellation of Tel Aviv’s annual Pride parade.

The municipality said it will instead hold a rally as a sign of pride, hope, and freedom.

The decision was made after municipality representatives consulted with LGBTQ community organizations, LGBTQ party promoters and venue owners in the city. Possible alternatives to the Pride parade were discussed. 

Mayor Ron Huldai in a post he published expressed the self-evident reasons for making the change.

“This is not the time for celebrations,” Huldai wrote. “In coordination with the organizations of the LGBTQ community, we decided that this year, instead of the Pride parade, we will hold a rally in Tel Aviv-Yafo as a sign of pride, hope, and freedom. 132 of our sons and daughters are still kidnapped in Gaza, the circle of bereavement is expanding every day, and we are in one of the most difficult periods of the State of Israel.”

“Tel Aviv-Yafo is the home of the LGBTQ community, it was and always will be,” he added. “Out of our great commitment to the community, this year we decided to divert part of the budget intended for the production of the Pride parade in favor of the activities of the ‘LGBTQ Center’ in Tel Aviv-Yafo. We feel the pain of the entire country, and at the same time we do not stop for a moment the fight for equality and freedom — for everyone and everything. See you at the Pride parade in June 2025.”

The coalition of LGBTQ community organizations welcomed the decision.

“We welcome the decision of the Tel Aviv Municipality not to hold the Pride parade as usual this year,” they said. “In these difficult days, when we are all in pain and grieving and when many of our brothers and sisters are not at home, either as evacuees from their homes or kidnapped in Gaza, and our hearts are not whole until they return. It is true that the Pride events will undergo adjustments to the times.” 

“Since time immemorial, the Pride parade in Tel Aviv, in contrast to the other parades and events throughout the country, has been a celebration of freedom, love, and equal rights and now, in these difficult days, it is important to continue to fight for a free and tolerant future even if we avoid the celebration,” they added. “Participation in the various Pride events around the country is more important than ever and we call on all members and members of the gay community and everyone who believes in a liberal, freer, and more just society to get out of the house and take part both in the rally in Tel Aviv and in the various events for the fight for equality and tolerance across the country.”

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Israeli Supreme Court rules country must allow two mothers on child’s birth certificate

LGBTQ activists praised the ruling

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The Israeli Supreme Court (Photo by the Israeli Supreme Court; public domain)

WDG, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel, published this article on their website on Thursday.

Supreme Court judges on Thursday unanimously ruled that the Population Authority must register female couples as mothers on the birth certificates of their children they have together.

The decision was made following a petition submitted by nine female couples, mothers of children born through anonymous sperm donation. The panel of judges, headed by Supreme Court President Uzi Fogelman and Judges Ruth Ronen and Alex Stein, rejected the Population Authority’s claim that the birth certificate reflects only biological parentage and ruled that both the birth mother and her partner must be registered as the child’s parent.

“The exclusion of the non-biological parent from the birth certificate means a preference for the position of the biological parent over parenting based on other parents,” Fogelman wrote in the ruling. “In terms of substantive law, the parenting of both parents — the biological parent and the non-biological parent — is equal and it includes the same basket of parental rights and duties. I do not believe that when at the level of substantive law there is equality between the parents, there is room to distinguish between them at the level of registration in the birth certificate.”

Fogelman also referred to the interpretation that may be given to the lack of registration on the birth certificate as “an offensive message according to which we are dealing with relationships that are different in nature and essence: while biological parentage is ‘real’ parentage, non-biological parentage is inferior and suspect parentage, a kind of ‘conditional’ parentage.”

The ruling does not apply to male couples because the petition dealt with couples who conceived with the help of anonymous sperm donation.

The ruling was issued as part of a petition submitted around eight years ago by nine female couples, who claimed that not registering the non-biological mother on the birth certificate deprives the child of rights that include acquiring foreign citizenship and petitioned the Interior Ministry and the Population and Immigration Authority to issue their children amended birth certificates that include the names of both mothers.

The Population Authority refused the couples’ request on the grounds that the birth certificate is a document that reflects the biological parentage at the time of birth, and is not updated with the passage of time. The petitioners claimed that the Population Authority’s policy violates the right to family life and the right to equality, since it discriminates against same-sex couples. And as evidence, they pointed out that when it comes to heterosexual couples, the Interior Ministry issues them corrected birth certificates — even in cases of adoption by the spouse of the biological mother or in the case where sperm donation is used for the birth of the child.

Fogelman accepted the respondents’ position according to which the birth certificate was intended to document the identity of the child at the initial point in time of his life. Alongside this, he rejected the respondents’ position that the birth certificate was intended to reflect biological parentage.

“A birth certificate is one of the most important documents a person has. It confers a basket of rights and is also used for the purpose of regulating citizenship in foreign countries,” said attorneys Daniela Ya’akobi, Hagai Kalai and Achinoam Orbach, who represented the petitioners. “For all these years, the state has insisted on denying children of two mothers a birth certificate that reflects the reality of their lives. The judgment of the High Court of Justice put an end to ugly and unnecessary discrimination, which has no purpose and never had. It is a great victory, but no man needs or wants to win his country. The time has come for the state, on its own initiative, to allow full equality of rights for all its citizens, including LGBT people.”

Aguda Chair Hila Peer responded to the ruling.

“This is a historic day when our families are equal,” she said. “For years the Interior Ministry has refused to register proud mothers on the birth certificate and now, thanks to the High Court of Justice, we are taking a significant step towards equality.”

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Middle East

Sheila Weinberg becomes Israel’s first transgender council member

Former teacher elected in Kiryat Tivon on Feb. 27

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Sheila Weinberg (Photo courtesy of Carmit Simhi-Rokah)

WDG is the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel. WDG published this article on their website.

Sheila Weinberg on Feb. 27 wrote another chapter in LGBTQ history in Israel when she was elected as the country’s first transgender council member. 

Weinberg, the 65-year-old chair of the “Transiot Israel” association and a former teacher, was elected to the Kiryat Tivon Local Council after her “More to Tivon” list won 37.7 percent of the votes.

In the past she was a member of the LGBTQ Committee in Kiryat Tivon and in the last year she was active in the protest against the proposed judicial reforms. Weinberg has two children and a granddaughter. She started the process of affirming her gender about five years ago when she was 60 years old.

“Many people in Kiryat Tivon knew exactly who I was and about my past. It didn’t bother. It seems to me that in certain places it was helpful,” Weinberg told WDG. “The residents of Tivon decided clearly in favor of a liberal, pluralistic and democratic Tivon. I have been a member of Meretz for many years and in these elections we joined a single list with ‘Yesh Atid’ and ‘Our Tivon’ and ‘Hoze Hadash’ (‘New Contract’), a list whose prominent values are equality among all. On the list were the women who founded the LGBT Committee in Tivon that operates with full vigor.”

Despite the historic title as the first trans council member in Israel, Weinberg is not content with just being active in the issues of the LGBTQ community, and aims (to become involved with) the education portfolio in her locality.

“I intend to use this branding to operate in Tivon in two main areas: Education and the LGBT community. Naturally, I see myself as someone who has a well-founded view of education in Tivon and I would be happy to be incharge of the education in Tivon, alongside the LGBT community. I have been teaching all my life. I taught for 35 years in several places, including the University of Haifa, and since the war started I have also been replacing a teacher who went into the reserves voluntarily.

Furthermore, I think I got my foot in the door for trans girls and trans boys. I will of course also continue to act as the chairman of ‘Transiot Israel’ and at the same time promote the needs of our community, which in the Haifa and Tivon area suffers from a lack of people.

I think I can speak for girls whose life path was less paved than mine. For those girls and boys who were thrown out on the street, out of school, who suffer physical and verbal violence, who are discriminated against economically and socially. And most of all, I would love to hear from my friends in the community and my friends there what the priorities are, not necessarily in Tivon but in Tel Aviv and other places.”

Other candidates from the LGBTQ community won in other municipalities in Israel.

In Tel Aviv-Yafo, Chen Arieli and Moti Reif entered the council for another term, as well as Reut Nagar and Shahar Levy. Assaf Weiss will serve as a council member in Ramat Gan, lawyer Daniela Jacobi in the Ramat Hasharon Council and Ella Kaufman will serve another term on the Kadima Council.

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