Court: Jerusalem LGBT Center to Get Municipal Funding

by Kilian Melloy
EDGE Staff Reporter
Friday September 17, 2010

Jerusalem's LGBT community center Open House must be provided municipal funding, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled Sept. 14.

The verdict marked the end of a years-long process of legal challenges, victories, setbacks, and appeals, reported Y Net on Sept. 14. Open House had sought legal redress by going to administrative court, and had gotten funding for 2003, 2004, and 2005. But when the city denied Open House funds for subsequent years and the court sided with the city, Open House took the matter further. Finally, the Supreme Court weighed in with a judgment in favor of the LGBT community center and an order for the city to pay Open House $120,000. Moreover, the court required that funding policies be revised to that similar community centers will also receive municipal funds.

"The history of the relationship between the sides reveals that the appellant's hand reaching out for support has met time and time again with the miserly hand of the municipality," the opinion handed down by the judges read. "We cannot but express hope that the municipality will not behave stingily again and that the sides can shake hands without further involving the court."

On his own, Justice Hanan Melcer wrote that the sort of thinly disguised discrimination the city showed toward the community center "has no place in the 21st century," Y Net reported.

Justice Isaac Amit noted that stressed that fair treatment of LGBTs set Israel apart from "most of the Mideast states near and far, in which members of the gay community are persecuted by the government and society," and posited that fair treatment is a hallmark of democracy. "It seems that the lack of recognition for members of the gay community as a group that constitutes part of Jerusalem's public sphere is what brings them time and again to the courts, as their cries go unheeded," Amit added.

"The authorities in Israel will no longer be able to ignore the gay community and treat it disrespectfully and a lack of equality," said Yonatan Gher, who serves Open House as the center's general director.

Israel is a democracy politically, but socially the country is influenced by religion. Conservatives point to their faith as a justification for anti-gay prejudices. Gay pride marches in Jerusalem have been beset by protests and violence, mainly from adherents of the Ultra-Orthodox tradition.

This summer's Pride in Jerusalem was a low-key affair on the parts of both celebrants and protesters. Pride participants marked the anniversary of a shooting at a gay youth center in Tel Aviv; Ultra-Orthodox protesters mostly limited their activities to holding placards with hostile messages such as "Gays Play in Hell, Not Jerusalem."

"I don't think it's dangerous anymore," Pride goer Yair Lieberman told the Associated Press. "But even if there's danger, that shouldn't stop us from walking." The AP article recalled that five years ago, Jerusalem Pride was marred by a knife attack in which an Ultra-Orthodox protester stabbed three marchers.

The Tel Aviv shootings were also commemorated in a separate observance in that city. Tel Aviv's Pride has also been attacked by government officials and religious leaders. In 2009, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, together with leading religious figures, asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to relocate the Tel Aviv parade, calling the Pride celebration an "abomination" that "constitute[d] a grave insult to the feelings of the public, especially to the Jewish, Christian and Muslim public."

The letter, written by an attorney for Yishai and the rabbis, said that, "Even in a constitutional democracy sensitive to the freedom of expression, there is no right to allow the consumption of abominations." Added the missive to Netanyahu, "Please order the event to be held not in its current location but on the outskirts of the city away from the religious population and minors who could be exposed to this material."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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