Showing posts with label Homophobia in Government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homophobia in Government. Show all posts

January 9, 2017

Secretary Kerry Apologizes for Past Years of Anti Gay Policies


On behalf of the U.S. State Department, John Kerry has issued a formal apology for the department's pattern of discrimination against LGBT employees during a period beginning in the 1940s and stretching for decades.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., had asked the secretary of state for such an apology in late November, calling the historical discrimination "un-American and unacceptable."

The Washington Blade reported on Cardin's request in early December, noting at the time that the State Department said it was preparing a response.

The mass purge of gay staffers during the mid-20th century was known as the "Lavender Scare," which coincided with the "Red Scare."

Eric Berkowitz, Author of 'The Boundaries Of Desire,' Discusses Laws On Sex And Sexuality

Author Eric Berkowitz, speaking to Terry Gross on Fresh Air in 2015, said the systematic discrimination against gay people in that era has "gotten short shrift in the popular imagination."

At the same time as the persecution of alleged communists, "there was no less energetic a hunt to root out what were called 'perverts' ... from the federal government," he said.

And it started in the State Department, explains David Johnson, the author of The Lavender Scare. He says that in the '40s, the State Department was already systematically firing gay employees.

Then, in 1950, Joseph McCarthy claimed to have a list of communists in the State Department. In an attempt to defend itself against the charges, the department pointed out that it was working hard to expel "subversives" — by firing gay people. That disclosure kicked off the wider "Lavender Scare."

"The purges begin in the State Department," Johnson says. "And then in the politicized atmosphere of McCarthyism, they doubled down."
In 1953, years after the State Department began firing gay employees, Dwight Eisenhower instituted a nationwide ban on gay men and lesbians working for the federal government. Purges lasted for decades. Careers were destroyed, and some employees committed suicide, Johnson says.

Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, wrote to Kerry on Nov. 29 to ask that in his last months as secretary of state, he address that history.

Cardin said that more than 1,000 people were dismissed from the Department of State for their alleged sexual orientation, and "many more" prevented from joining the department through discriminatory hiring practices. As recently as the 1990s, he said, the State Department drove out personnel thought to be gay, calling them "security risks."

Cardin urged Kerry to acknowledge the discrimination, apologize for it — and perhaps install an exhibit about it at the State Department's museum.

"Of course, the measures we take today cannot bring back years of anguish or erase decades of institutionalized homophobia, but we can ensure that such injustices levied against the LGBT community are never repeated again," Cardin said in a statement in early December.

Kerry responded with a statement released Monday. He began by highlighting the State Department's recent support for LGBT and intersex employees. Then he wrote:

"In the past — as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades — the Department of State was among many public and private employers that discriminated against employees and job applicants on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, forcing some employees to resign or refusing to hire certain applicants in the first place. These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today.
"On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past and reaffirm the Department's steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community."
Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy said in a statement that "although it is not possible to undo the damage that was done decades ago, Secretary Kerry's apology sets the right tone for the State Department as it enters a new and uncertain time in our country under a new administration."

But David Johnson, a history professor at the University of South Florida and the author of The Lavender Scare, says that while the apology is welcome and overdue, Kerry's statement misrepresents the State Department's role in the purge.

"The apology made it sound like the State Department was just one of many institutions that was discriminating against gay men and lesbians ... that it was just sort of run-of-the-mill 1950s anti-gay discrimination," he says.

“In fact, the State Department was unique in its level of homophobia," he says.

November 28, 2016

Police Homophobia in Manchester, London May Have Caused Many Young Gay Lives

In 2001, when I joined the police, homophobia was rife. In the Greater Manchester force I heard the word “queer” often, mainly from sergeants about prisoners. And when I came out to my senior officer, he told me he couldn’t condone what I did “as a homosexual”. In a secret document my chief superintendent wrote that he had considered moving me because of “concerns over victimisation resulting from PC Maxwell’s sexual orientation”.
For many straight cops, being gay was seen as unnatural. I moved stations and continued to police other gay men under outdated laws, with me and my colleagues often looking for gay men on the canal towpath we could punish for sex acts. Seniors officers directed us to do this because, they said, these men were causing a public nuisance. 
So when I think about the case of Stephen Port – who was last week convicted of murdering four young gay men, whose killings detectives failed to link despite obvious clues – the notion of institutionalised homophobia is at the forefront of my mind. How much were officers’ judgments blinded by the so-called “lifestyle choice” of the victims?
Friends of Port’s victims have spoken about their experiences of being brushed off by the police. Many LGBT people don’t report incidents or hate crimes to the force for this very reason.
When I transferred from Manchester to London as a detective after seven years I thought lessons had been learned about diversity following the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. However, though people knew they could no longer outwardly use homophobic language in the workplace, they found other ways to express their disdain and prejudice.
I recently received a message from a gay officer who told me he was suffering homophobia within Scotland Yard. After giving him advice, I then saw him publicly praise the force for its gay tolerance. This is why any call for a public inquiry into the Port investigation will fail miserably, because LGBT people in the police will undermine it.
I became unwell with depression because of homophobia and racism in the police. I took the difficult decision of taking the police commissioner to an employment tribunal, but the force were furious with me. The court ruled I had been subjected to discrimination, harassment and victimisation based on my sexuality and race. The police then appealed against the judgment. I lost my job. An appeal judge upheld my complaints.
Only this month a gay man, David Cary, won compensation from the Met after a nine-year battle over its failure to investigate homophobic abuse claims against him. In response to this, citing my own case against the force, the Met said: “The way the organisation deals with homophobic crime and our internal practices and policies have changed dramatically since 2013.” After the Port case, can they really say that?
Members of the public told officers that the bodies of two young men being found in the same place was crucial, yet they were dismissed as not being important to the investigation – Port then went on to kill his fourth victim. If the bodies of two straight people were found in exactly the same place, weeks apart, would that not raise concerns that a pattern was emerging? How many deaths and attacks could have been avoided? 
The police didn’t create the monster that is Port, but they did have a responsibility to investigate his crimes properly. The system, riddled with institutional homophobia as it is, needs to be dealt with.
When I challenged homophobia in the Met, not a single gay officer or LGBT organisation stood alongside me. Afterwards, I watched as the police commissioner mingled with gay celebrities and charities at an awards ceremony. A picture of inclusiveness was presented, to refute the notion that the force was homophobic. I recognize the game, but imagine how it feels to watch this, for those who have been mistreated by the force because of their sexuality. 

September 20, 2016

Gay Dad Answers to MP’s Outrage at Age of Consent Lowered for Teen Boys

Australian Conservative MP George Christensen was outraged last week when Queensland lowered the age of consent for anal sex, suggesting the move would lead to16-year-old boys being “preyed upon and groomed” by 50-year-old men.

Australian Conservative MP George Christensen was outraged last week when Queensland lowered the age of consent for anal sex, suggesting the move would lead to16-year-old boys being "preyed upon and groomed" by 50-year-old men.

It prompted one of his constituents and long-time party supporters, 71-year-old Peter Roberts, who has a gay son, to write this reply that has started going viral on Twitter.

Mary Roberts:

A few Anzac years ago you bought me a beer, as a 20 plus
veteran with two tours of Vienam. If you did it now I would tip the bloody thing
over your head. The typical homophobic, they must be pedophiles. So it is
alright for old men like me to try and find a younger women but not a Gay man.
I have a GAT SON who Iam so proud of what he has  achieved in his life. His
condition, or what you want to call it, came from my fathers ancestry so I 
have passed it on to him. He should have the same right as I have to marry, to
adopt if he and his partner wants to and not have clowns like you who live in
the past helping run this country and make decision for us and him. If you
decide to come to the Reef Gateway hotel at Cannonvale for an anzac day
please ask for me. 18201 Warrant Officer Second Class Peter Roberts. I have
hacked my wives Facebook for this as she probably would be harsher.

Dale Robets

My dad is a Nats supporter in Dawson - last night he wrote this on George Christensen's page

It reads:

A few Anzac years ago you bought me a beer, as a 20 plus veteran with two tours of Vietnam. if you did it now I would tip the bloody thing over your head. The typical homophobic, they must be pedophiles. So it is alright for old men like me to try and find a younger women but not a Gay man. I have a GAY SON who I am so proud of what he has achieved in his life. His condition, or what you want to call it, came from my Fathers ancestor,y so I have passed it on to him. he should have the same rights as I have to Marry, to adopt if he and his partner wants to and not have clowns like you who live in the past helping to run this country and make decision for us and him. If you decide to come to the Reef Gateway Hotel at Cannonvale for an Anzac Day please ask for me. 18201 Warrant Officer Second Class Peter Roberts. I have hacked my wifes facebook for this as she probably would be harsher.

Peter’s son Dale told BuzzFeed News that his Dad saw the Facebook post as a “direct attack on myself and our family”.

Peter's son Dale told BuzzFeed News that his Dad saw the Facebook post as a "direct attack on myself and our family".
“Dad is by no means public with his politics. And definitely not on social media. He’s 71 and doesn’t have his own account,” said Dale.
“He’s very quietly supportive of me (he met my partner for first time recently at mum and dad’s 40th wedding anniversary), I think he’s just frustrated that we don’t have the same rights and opportunities he does.”

Dale said growing up gay in Christensen’s north Queensland electorate of Dawson was tough for him and his family, and the politician’s comments “comparing gay men to pedophiles” doesn’t help.

Dale said growing up gay in Christensen's north Queensland electorate of Dawson was tough for him and his family, and the politician's comments "comparing gay men to pedophiles" doesn't help.
“Growing up and knowing other gay people in his electorate I know how damaging his comments can be, not just for LGBT people but also their families as well,” he said.
Dale said the other thing that frustrates his dad is Australia dragging its feet on marriage equality.
“I think dad’s post and the reason it’s gone off is because people can relate to the frustration with it all, marriage equality can happen immediately. 
“Let’s get it done and treat all Australian people and families the same.”
Mark Di Stefano is a political editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at

August 6, 2016

Ugandan Police Attack Gay Pageant Event


Ugandan police unlawfully raided an event late in the evening of August 4, 2016, the third night of a week of Ugandan LGBTI Pride celebrations, brutally assaulting participants, seven human rights groups said today.
The event was a pageant in Kampala’s Club Venom to crown Mr/Ms/Mx Uganda Pride. Police claimed that they had been told a “gay wedding” was taking place and that the celebration was “unlawful” because police had not been informed of the event. However, police had been duly informed, and the prior two Pride events, on August 2 and 3, were conducted without incident.
“We strongly condemn these violations of Ugandans’ rights to peaceful association and assembly,” said Nicholas Opiyo, a human rights lawyer and executive director at Chapter Four Uganda. “These brutal actions by police are unacceptable and must face the full force of Ugandan law.”

The police locked the gates of the club, arrested more than 16 people – the majority of whom are Ugandan LGBT rights activists – and detained hundreds more for over 90 minutes, beating and humiliating people; taking pictures of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) Ugandans and threatening to publish them; and confiscating cameras. Witnesses reported that the police assaulted many participants, in particular transgender women and men, in some cases groping and fondling them. One person jumped from a sixth-floor window to avoid police abuse and is in a hospital in critical condition.

By approximately 1:20 a.m., all those arrested had been released without charge from the Kabalagala Police Station. This episode of police brutality did not happen in isolation, the groups said. It comes at a time of escalating police violence targeting media, independent organizations, and the political opposition.

“Any force by Ugandan police targeting a peaceful and lawful assembly is outrageous,” said Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), who was among those arrested. “The LGBTI community stands with all Ugandan civil society movements against police brutality.”

“The Ugandan government should condemn violent illegal actions by police targeting the LGBTI community and all Ugandans,” said Asia Russell at Health GAP. “The US and all governments should challenge President Museveni to intervene immediately and hold his police force accountable.”

LGBTI Ugandans routinely face violence, discrimination, bigotry, blackmail, and extortion. The unlawful government raid on a spirited celebration displays the impunity under which Ugandan police are operating. “The state has a duty to protect all citizens’ enjoyment of their rights, including the right to peacefully assemble to celebrate Pride Uganda,” said Hassan Shire, executive director at Defend Defenders. “A swift and transparent investigation should be conducted into last night’s unacceptable demonstration of police brutality.”

Activists called on the governments to immediately and publicly condemn the raid and to take swift disciplinary action against those responsible for the gross violations of rights and freedoms. The organizers said that Pride Uganda celebrations will continue as planned, with a celebration on August 6.

“Our pride and resilience remain steadfast despite these horrible and shameful actions by Ugandan police,” said Clare Byarugaba of Chapter Four Uganda.

“Celebrating with LGBTI people and demonstrating solidarity in calling for their rights to be respected is as basic a show of free expression and association under human rights law as you can get,” said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Ugandan authorities should not only refrain from trying to stop such activities, but they have binding legal obligations to ensure others do not interfere in this fundamental exercise of basic rights.” 

May 16, 2016

Only ONE Senator Stalling Confirmation of Gay Man for Secretary of Army

It's been eight months since President Barack Obama nominated Eric Fanning to become secretary of the Army — the first openly gay man to be recommended to that branch's highest ranking civilian position. 
Since then, he's no closer than he was months ago to a confirmation. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, is holding up Fanning's confirmation because the lawmaker wants Obama to promise not to move Guantanamo Bay detainees to the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas military installation. 

Acting Secretary of the Air Force, Eric Fanning USAF

"Let me be very clear on this — as a veteran, a Marine — I support Mr. Eric Fanning for this post," Roberts said on the Senate floor late last month. "If the White House calls and assures me that terrorists held at Guantanamo will not come to Ft. Leavenworth, I will release the hold - immediately."  
White House officials suggested Roberts is grandstanding. 
"It is hard to imagine that Senator Roberts takes this particularly seriously," White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters in a press briefing last month. "You may recall the last time that anybody has talked about Senator Roberts was when he filmed a video of himself crumbling up the president's plan to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and throwing it in a wastebasket. So maybe he relishes the opportunity to be before the camera, but it's not apparent that he takes this critically important national security issue all that seriously." 
The standoff stems from the president's announcement of a long-anticipated pitch to Congress in February to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Keeping the prison open, the president said, is "contrary to our values." 

Image: Pat Roberts

Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, left, answers a question during a debate with independent candidate Greg Orman listens during a debate at the Kansas State Fair Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Hutchinson, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) Charlie Riedel / AP

"It's been clear that the detention center at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security," Obama said from the Roosevelt Room at the White House earlier this year. "It undermines it." 
The administration is weighing 13 locations across the country, including seven existing prison facilities in Colorado, South Carolina and Kansas and six additional sites on current military bases. Officials have said the plan doesn't highlight a preferred site. 
 The response — especially from Republicans in Congress — was swift and critical. 
Roberts who has represented Kansas for nearly two decades, and lawmakers from Colorado and South Carolina has been vocal in objecting to moving Guantanamo detainees to their states. 
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of House Armed Services Committee, sent the president a letter outlining the details he expected to see in any closure plan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the chamber floor and said the president was fixed "on one matter by one campaign promise he made in 2008." 
 Obama Submits Plan to Close Guantanamo Bay 3:51
However, Roberts took his opposition a step further. 
"With this hold, I have used one of the tools afforded to me as a U.S. Senator, and I will continue to do everything in my power to fulfill my obligations to protect the national security of the United States. It is what Kansans expect and demand of me," Roberts said on the Senate floor last month. 
In March he introduced a Senate resolution rejecting any efforts to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay to American facilities. 
The impasse remains despite the efforts of Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee — who calls Roberts a "good friend" — to move the process along, 
Late last month an exasperated McCain took to the Senate floor and begged his colleague to lift his hold. 

Image: U.S. Republican Senator McCain speaks during a news conference in Jerusalem

U.S. Republican Senator John McCain speaks during a news conference in Jerusalem January 3, 2014 AMMAR AWAD / Reuters

"It is not fair to the men and the women of the United States Army to be without the leadership of a secretary of the Army," McCain said on the Senate floor. "Mr. Fanning is eminently qualified to assume that role of Secretary of the Army. So I would urge my friend and colleague to allow me to… to not object to the unanimous consent that I am just proposing." 
Roberts remains unmoved. So does the White House. 
"Mr. Fanning is somebody that has extensive experience at the Department of Defense," Earnest told reporters during a briefing last week. "He's served in a number of roles there. And he would bring that experience and that judgment to the secretary's office. The president believes that he is exactly the right person for the job. And its unconscionable for Republicans to continue to block his nomination for no good reason."
Posted as written by by 

April 17, 2016

UK Intelligence Boss is Sorry for Their Historical Ban on Gays

Robert Hannigan said archaic attitudes towards gays had persisted for decades
Robert Hannigan said archaic attitudes towards gays had persisted for decades
The director of GCHQ has apologized for historic prejudice against homosexuals by the agency and the "horrifying" treatment of Alan Turing. 
Not letting gay people work for GCHQ until the 1990s was wrong and was the "nation's loss", the UK intelligence agency's boss Robert Hannigan has said.
He also said the treatment of gay computer pioneer and code breaker Alan Turing had been "horrifying".
GCHQ now relies on people who "dare to be different", he told a conference hosted by gay rights group Stonewall.
Mr Hannigan said no-one could know what some of those sacked for being gay would have gone on to achieve.

 In his speech in London, Mr Hannigan said a former spy he called Ian, who was forced out of the service on suspicion of being gay in the 1960s, had urged him to apologise.

"I am happy to do so today and to say how sorry I am that he and so many others were treated in this way, right up until the 1990s when the policy was rightly changed," he said.
"The fact that it was common practice for decades reflected the intolerance of the times and the pressures of the Cold War, but it does not make it any less wrong and we should apologise for it.
"Their suffering was our loss and it was the nation's loss too because we cannot know what Ian and others who were dismissed would have gone on to do and achieve. We did not learn our lesson from Turing."
Despite his pivotal and groundbreaking work breaking codes during World War Two - the story of which was told in the 2014 film The Imitation Game staring Benedict Cumberbatch - Turing was hounded by GCHQ over his sexuality. 
 In 1952 he faced a conviction for gross indecency following which he was chemically castrated. He had been arrested after having an affair with a 19-year-old Manchester man.
The conviction meant he lost his security clearance and had to stop the code-cracking work.
In 1954 he took his own life by eating an apple laced with cyanide, and in 2013 he   received a posthumous royal pardon.

"In the horrifying story of his treatment, a small ray of light is that he was not abandoned by all of his colleagues at GCHQ - many stood by him," Mr Hannigan said.
He said GCHQ now relies on people who “dare to think differently and be different" and that included hiring spies on the autistic spectrum, with Asperger's or other syndromes, who he described as "precious assets".

April 11, 2016

“The Boss” Springsteen Cancels NC over Anti gay Law

Image result for springsteen the boss gay


On Friday, Bruce Springsteen cancelled his upcoming show in Greensboro, North Carolina, citing his opposition to the state’s sweeping new anti-LGBTQ law. “North Carolina has just passed HB2,” Springsteen wrote on his website, explaining that the law “dictates which bathrooms transgender people are permitted to use.”

Just as important, the law also attacks the rights of LGBT citizens to sue when their human rights are violated in the workplace. No other group of North Carolinians faces such a burden. To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress. Right now, there are many groups, businesses, and individuals in North Carolina working to oppose and overcome these negative developments. Taking all of this into account, I feel that this is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters. As a result, and with deepest apologies to our dedicated fans in Greensboro, we have canceled our show scheduled for Sunday, April 10th. Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry—which is happening as I write—is one of them. It is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.
Springsteen is a longtime gay rights supporter. In 1996, in an interview with the Advocate, he explained that he “didn’t buy a lot of those negative attitudes” about homosexuality as a teenager and had gay friends. He also noted that he considered himself a misfit at the time:

Basically, I was pretty ostracized in my hometown. Me and a few other guys were the town freaks—and there were many occasions when we were dodging getting beaten up ourselves. So, no, I didn't feel a part of those homophobic ideas. Also, I started to play in clubs when I was l6 or 17, and I was exposed to a lot of different lifestyles and a lot of different things. It was the sixties, and I was young, I was open-minded, and I wasn't naturally intolerant.
The Boss then delivered a nice soliloquy on “the values that are at work in my work”:

Certainly tolerance and acceptance were at the forefront of my music. If my work was about anything, it was about the search for identity, for personal recognition, for acceptance, for communion, and for a big country. I've always felt that's why people come to my shows, because they feel that big country in their hearts.
Springsteen is also known for passionately kissing male band mate Clarence Clemons on stage. 

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers the law and LGBTQ issues.

March 7, 2016

Israel Praises Gays but its Government Votes Against them- Hypocrisy?

Image result for anti gay knesset
Add caption
The Military is been accepting gays to fight
but still not easy to openly serve.

Gays Protesting the Government in Tel Aviv

 It felt like Israel’s gay community had taken a major step forward.

On Feb. 23, eight separate Israeli parliamentary committees convened to discuss a broad set of issues facing the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Lawmakers from a range of parties talked about protecting LGBT Israelis in the classroom, at home, in government offices and in the army. That afternoon, the parliament officially recognized “Gay Rights Day in the Knesset.”

But 24 hours later, the atmosphere was markedly different.

On Feb. 24, the Knesset voted down a cluster of bills aiming at increasing LGBT rights. The defeated bills — including measures to establish civil unions, provide government benefits to the same-sex partners of fallen soldiers, prohibit gay conversion therapy and mandate training for health care professionals in LGBT issues — were all proposed by opposition legislators and rejected by Israel’s governing coalition.

“It’s historic that on one day, our issues were discussed in depth in all of the committees,” said Chen Arieli, co-chair of Aguda, an Israeli LGBT rights group. “What happened the next day was very sad.”

The contrast points to a dissonance in how Israel treats its LGBT community and their legal rights. For years, Israeli leaders have trumpeted the country’s welcoming climate toward gays and lesbians, especially when compared to Israel’s neighbors. Tel Aviv in particular is known as a mecca for gays, complete with a gay beach and a raucous annual pride parade.

But in the halls of government, gay Israelis have long faced a firewall of religious parties that have blocked pro-LGBT legislation. Gay couples cannot marry, adopt children or have surrogate pregnancies in Israel, though the government does recognize adoptions and gay marriages performed abroad.

Speaking Feb. 24 in the Knesset, Israel’s haredi Orthodox health minister, Yaakov Litzman, invoked the biblical story of the golden calf in expressing his rejection of the pro-LGBT bills.

Mickey Gitzin, founder of Be Free Israel, which promotes religious freedom, spoke of “a big gap between the legal situation and the social situation.”

“Socially, Israel is a liberal state. To be LGBT isn’t so bad or terrible,” he said. “But legally, we’re among the most backward states in the world.”

Personifying that tension is one junior lawmaker, Amir Ohana, who has borne much of the criticism for last week’s about-face at the Knesset.

Ohana, who is gay and lives in Tel Aviv with his partner and two children, was previously seen as an LGBT success story. A former army officer, Shin Bet intelligence agency official and lawyer, Ohana entered the Knesset with the ruling Likud party in December. He is the only gay lawmaker in the coalition, and one of only two in the 120-seat Knesset.

But though he supports increased rights for LGBT Israelis, Ohana exited the plenum for the Feb. 24 votes. When LGBT activists accused him of hypocrisy, Ohana attributed the move to his responsibility to the coalition.

In a Facebook post that day, Ohana defended himself as a fighter for LGBT rights, describing his decision to exit the Knesset as a principled move to avoid voting against bills that were going to fail anyway.

“Members of the coalition are obligated to observe coalition discipline,” he wrote. “They’re not masters of their own fate. Israel has almost no freedom to vote, nor is there a freedom to be absent.”

In Israel’s parliamentary system, coalition lawmakers are expected to vote with the government when it decides to support or oppose a bill. If individual lawmakers deviate, they can be taken off committees or have other privileges taken away.

Responsibility for determining which bills gain coalition support lies with the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, a Cabinet panel composed of representatives of the coalition parties. The committee determines which bills to bring to the Knesset and which opposition measures to support. Because the coalition represents a majority of lawmakers, the committee essentially determines which bills become law.

Hovav Yannai, Knesset coordinator for the Social Guard, a nonprofit aiming to increase Knesset accountability on social issues, says this is the reason Israel’s laws don’t match its reputation on gay issues. Majorities of Israelis support pro-LGBT reform, and Yannai estimates that at least two-thirds of Knesset members would support equal rights for LGBT Israelis if they had the freedom to do so.

But the fact that a handful of committee members determines which bills gain coalition support grants outsized influence to smaller parties, which can bring down a government if they don’t get their way. Israel’s current coalition government includes the haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, which oppose LGBT rights.

“Governments work according to political agreements, not for the wider public,” Yannai said. “I don’t see positive change coming for the LGBT community in the near future as long as the Israeli government includes non-liberal religious parties.”

Absent improvements in gay rights, Arieli suggests that coalition Knesset members are being hypocritical by praising the LGBT community while stymieing its legislative agenda.

“You stand on our stages, march in our marches, give us speeches,” she said. “It’s time to walk the walk. We want actions, not just words.”

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