The Knesset plenum passed in a preliminary reading two bills that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The bills, sponsored by MKs Ofer Shelah and Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), determine that any Israeli law that relates to discrimination will also prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.

The explanatory portion of Shelah`s bill states that ”currently there is a variety of laws aimed at preventing discrimination. In light of the changes in Israeli society, we believe it is proper to make a general change to the discrimination prohibition clauses, through an amendment to the Interpretation Law, 1981. This law will be used by the courts as an interpretation instrument in any issue that is related to discrimination, and it will also be an educational statement regarding equal rights in Israeli society.”

Horowitz`s bill reads: ”In light of the changes applied to Israeli law since 1992, and considering the frequent harm caused to the LGBT community due to sexual orientation or gender – through discrimination and harassment – the time has come to amend the Interpretation Law. Apart from the legal significance, this change can have an educational and social effect as well.”

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) opposed the legislation, saying ”the State of Israel is being turned into darkness unto the nations.” According to Gafni, the proposals are not practical and are merely aimed at ”uniting everyone in defiance against morality and the Torah of Israel.”

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said the government supports the legislation and will assist those who suffer from gender-based discrimination.

Fifty-four MKs voted in favor of Shelah`s bill, and 14 opposed. Forty-eight lawmakers backed Horowitz`s bill, and 13 opposed. The bills will be transferred to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which will prepare them for the first reading.