A controversial bill promising same-sex couples equal tax benefits that has been straining the coalition managed to pass a preliminary reading in the Knesset Tuesday.
The bill, proposed by a Yesh Atid
MK, outraged the Habayit Hayehudi
faction, and prompted dissent among coalition ranks with political negotiations going on in the Knesset plenum until seconds before the vote.
The bill is sponsored by MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid) and eventually passed with 40 MKs in favor and 22 against. It attempts to give same-sex parents the same tax benefits enjoyed by heterosexual parents.
"It is not easy to accept those who are different from you. Tolerance is when you force yourself to accept someone different," said Finance Minister Yair Lapid,
who presented the bill.
"Haredi MKs ask us to accept them. Today is a test of that demand. I turn to you and say: You cannot expect someone to accept you if you do not accept another. The fact that you disapprove of someone's lifestyle does not mean their rights can be denied."
Knesset plenum (Photo: Gil Yochanan)
Lapid further added that "we live in a world of rights and obligations, therefore any person who fulfills their obligations to society should be entitled to enjoy their full rights. This bill will not disappear, in accordance with coalition agreements this bill will move forward. We will not give up on the holy principle according to which every person has the right to live as they please."
MK Stav Shafir accused Yesh Atid of less than honorable motives, saying they had engineered the controversy for their own ends.
"Yesh Atid is making a fool out of Knesset members. It is only proposing the bill so it can shoot it down as part of a low and dirty deal with the Habayit Hayehudi," she said.
"To add insult to injury: It makes fools out of its own constituency who were duped into believing the party would work to promote equal rights for the gay community. But it turns out the 'brothers' Bennett and Lapid have made nice and now have no problem that the gay community will pay the price. Lapid will remain alone."
The two sides allegedly reached a compromise Tuesday night, according to which the Habayit Hayehudi party would support the bill in its preliminary reading. However, opposition members claim this is only a spin meant to allow the bill to pass only to have it buried in committees.
Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked noted that her party would support the bill on the condition it would be brought forth as an amendment and not a full-fledged bill.
In the past, the Habayit Hayehudi has claimed they could support such specific bill and initiatives if they did not substantially change the legal definition of marriage.
Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett voted in favor of the bill, but party members claimed that some of the articles in the bill proposed were different than those agreed upon as part of Tuesday's compromise agreement.
– which has been the most vocal of the opposition parties in their support of same-sex couples and full equality for the LGBTQ community – refused to support the bill without a commitment by Lapid that he intends to follow through with the legislation.
"If they plan to legislate the bill and it will end in nil then we will have no part of it. If we receive a promise, then they will have our support," said Meretz MK Ilan Gilon.
Labor party whip MK Eitan Cabel echoed the claim, saying "we do not object to this bill, but we do need assurances that we are not part of a dirty spin."