(Jerusalem) In an unprecedented
ruling, Israel's Supreme Court ordered the government on
Tuesday to recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad.
The lone dissenter on the
seven-judge panel was an observant Jew, highlighting the
controversy the decision touches off among ultra-Orthodox Jews
and other deeply conservative groups in Israel.
Efforts by Israel's gay
community to win approval for same-sex marriage, a key issue
in North America and Europe, face a major obstacle because
Israel's rabbinate has a monopoly over Jewish marriage and
``We don't have a Jewish state
here. We have Sodom and Gomorrah here,'' said Moshe Gafni, an
ultra-Orthodox legislator, referring to two cities the Bible
said was destroyed because their citizens were so sinful.
``I assume that every sane
person in the state of Israel, possibly the entire Jewish
world, is shocked, because the significance is ... the
destruction of the family unit in the state of Israel,'' Gafni
told Israel's Army Radio.
Gafni said he would consider
presenting a bill to parliament that would bypass Tuesday's
Supreme Court ruling and make recognition of all same-sex
Yossi Ben-Ari, who petitioned
the court along with his partner, Loren Shuman, brushed off
Gafni's comments as a continuation of the ultra-Orthodox
``frenzy'' against Israel's gay and lesbian community.
``This is only the beginning of
the battle. The courts here are very progressive ... but the
battle is for the face of society,'' Ben-Ari told Israel's
Army Radio. ``The battle for our rights doesn't end here, it
is still very long.''
Animosity toward gays and
lesbians is one of the few issues that unites Jews, Muslims
and Christians in the Holy Land. They have jointly come out
against gay parades in the city, and are all likely to oppose
the Supreme Court ruling.
Earlier this month, a planned
gay parade in Jerusalem set off days of violence in the city's
ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. Protesters burned trash bins and
hurled stones at police, demanding the parade be cancelled or
moved to secular Tel Aviv.
In the end, Jerusalem's gay
community moved the event to a stadium on a university campus
in Jerusalem, quelling the threats of violence and allowing
4,000 people to celebrate peacefully.
Last year, an ultra-Orthodox
man stabbed and wounded three participants at Jerusalem's gay
Still, many cities in Israel
have thriving gay scenes. And the Israeli military, an
influential and respected institution, is banned from
discriminating against gays. Lesbians and gays are drafted
into the army for mandatory service and are given the
opportunity to progress up the ranks.