Whether you like it or not, the Knesset is the place where the decisions are made and where the people sit who determine the policy that affects the reality of all Israelis. The devoted volunteers of the Forum for Public Policy in the Aguda know very well that if we want to make a change in the reality of the LGBTQ community in Israel, we can’t sit still.
The Knesset’s winter session opened this week and will last for the next five months, and in the dozens of discussions that take place every week, issues arise in education, welfare, health, economics, domestic policy and more. Many of these issues have implications for the LGBTQ community, even if they are indirect. Only in the first week of the session will there be a discussion of the gaps in health care between the periphery and the center, the transparency index in the Ministry of Justice, and the involvement of social services in cases of parental alienation. All of these have clear LGBT aspects.
As in the previous sessions, members of the Aguda’s Forum for Public Policy intend to attend discussions, to appear on committees, to speak with MKs, and to do whatever it takes to be an influential factor in decisions.
“There’s a well-known phrase in politics that says decisions are made by those who show up,” explains Oded Frid of the LGBT Public Policy Forum. “It’s true in elections, when those who vote are the ones who influence, and it’s also true in the Knesset debates. “Sending a professional and reasoned position paper, then the physical presence in the committee, the conversation with the MK just before the vote, all these and many other steps ultimately affect the outcome of the parliamentary process.”
What LGBT topics are on the agenda at this session?
“Remember the wonderful headlines in the newspaper that the state has changed its position and now supports adoption by same-sex couples? The state has promised the High Court to bring legislation amendments that would put an end to discrimination in adoption. It’s unclear why it takes 9 months for the Ministry of Justice to write: “In section 3 in addition to a man and his wife, it includes same sex couples,” but the winter session of the Knesset is the time and place to express this position. It’s also worth mentioning that the State of Israel allows couples who are interested in adopting children from other countries, but in practice the intercountry adoption track has also been blocked to us. Adoption from other countries is conducted in a moderate manner by one of the two associations for Israeli heritage. But these associations, that get their validation from the Ministry of Social Affairs, chose to communicate about adoption with countries where the authorities prohibit adoption by LGBT.”
Besides the adoption for same sex couples, there are also transgender issues and discrimination against lesbian couples in regards to sperm banks. “The State Control Committee held a number of discussions on the procedure for changing gender on the identity card, and although the issue seemed to have been completed, the Interior Ministry retracted its statements,” explains Oded. “The chairperson of the committee is expected to be replaced by the opening of the session, but we will not let this issue go off the agenda. Apart from this committee, many other committees have held various discussions on LGBT issues in the past, including discussions in the special LGBTQ days that we have initiated over the last two years, and we follow the conclusions of the discussions and work to realize them.
“The Health Ministry has also initiated a bill to regulate the sperm banks, a law that violates the right to equality, which would harm lesbian and bisexual women, and would deprive female same-sex couples of the rights given to heterosexual couples ”
Do the recent decisions of the Knesset give the impression that the coming feedback will be more positive or negative to the LGBT community?
“The recent decisions of the Supreme Court have made it clear to all of us that the struggle is a political struggle and that it is necessary to run it simultaneously in the parliamentary arena as well. I am optimistic, and the reason for this is not necessarily Knesset members or Supreme Court decisions, but community mobilization for this struggle and the work of volunteers from the Forum for Public Policy, which in the first week of the Knesset dealt with four committees and three bills. We take responsibility, act professionally and I am sure that the achievements will be in accordance.”
What can the public do to influence decisions made in the Knesset, if at all?
“The public can do a lot. To write or share posts on social media and to raise awareness, to send an e-mail to a Knesset member or to write on his page on Facebook, to help gather information for a position paper and to bring personal stories to flood issues from the field, to enlist in a party, and more. Everything starts with active involvement. Every week, we publish what is being discussed next week on the association’s Facebook page, and anyone who has anything to say about it and wants to be involved or involved is invited to contact us. “