Religion in Israel: Politician Who Went To Gay Wedding Forced To Resign

An ultra-Orthodox politician has been forced to resign from his seat in the Israeli parliament because he attended his gay nephew’s wedding, it was announced on Wednesday.

Yigal Guetta, a member of the religious Shas party, revealed on Sunday that he had gone to the wedding in opposition to the values of his community.

"[My nephew] said he wanted my blessing. I told him I don’t understand about such things. And he told me that he's gay and that he's marrying a man. So I told him that now I understand even less,” Guetta told Israel’s Army Radio on Sunday.

"My entire family went to the wedding. I usually don’t tell my kids to what events they should go, but this time I told them attendance was mandatory. Beforehand, I told my kids: 'We're going to make him happy because he's my sister's son and I want him to be happy, but I want you to know that according to the Torah this [wedding] is forbidden and an abomination. I have no leeway on this.”

After he attended the wedding, five rabbis affiliated with the Shas party wrote a public letter that demanded Guetta to be removed from his position. Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri welcomed his resignation and expressed gratitude that he made the move.

“Minister Deri told MK Guetta that he respects his decision, expressed his appreciation for him and thanked him for his valuable work and for the new and energetic spirit he introduced to Shas,” Deri’s office stated, referring to the term for a politician in the Israeli parliament: Member of Knesset.

But sources told Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz that Guetta had declined to apologize for attending the wedding and chose to leave before he was forced to make a public apology.

Israeli parliament Members of the 19th Knesset, the new Israeli parliament, stand as President Shimon Peres arrives to the swearing-in ceremony of the 19th Knesset, the new Israeli parliament on February 5, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. Ronen Zvulun-Pool/Getty

Dov Khanin, the only Jewish politician from the Joint Arab List party, said that it is "horrible that in 2017 attending the wedding of a gay family member can inspire such a reaction.”

Members of the LGBT community can serve in the Israeli military but same-sex marriages are not recognized in Israel unless they are conducted abroad. The issue of same-sex marriage is a contentious one in Israel, which has no state marriage laws, and the religions observed in the country primarily reject same-sex marriage.

The Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv is known as a beacon of LGBT activity in the Middle East, but other sections of Israel society can be less welcoming to same-sex relationships. 

In June 2016, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a 16-year-old girl at a Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem a year earlier. He had only been released from prison several weeks before for another stabbing attack on a LGBT parade in 2005, injuring three people. 

The parade through the holy city is a controversial event for the ultra-Orthodox community, which objects to displays of public affection by members of the LGBT community.