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Transgender rights bill dropped in Israeli Knesset

The bill's sponsor said it was pulled because of pressure from Israel's ultra-Orthodox health minister.

By Ed Adamczyk
Israeli Knesset member Amir Ohana at Jerusalem's 2015 Gay Pride parade. A bill Ohana sponsored, classifying attacks targeting transgender people as hate crimes, was pulled from consideration Wednesday in the Knesset. <a class="tpstyle" href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amir_Ohana.jpg">Photo by Igor Zeiger/Wikimedia</a>
Israeli Knesset member Amir Ohana at Jerusalem's 2015 Gay Pride parade. A bill Ohana sponsored, classifying attacks targeting transgender people as hate crimes, was pulled from consideration Wednesday in the Knesset. Photo by Igor Zeiger/Wikimedia

JERUSALEM, July 20 (UPI) -- A bill in the Israeli parliament to protect transgender people from hate crimes was abruptly withdrawn from consideration Wednesday.

The legislation would have added "gender identity" to categories recognized in Israel's criminal code as targets of hate crimes. It would have eased the task of prosecutors seeking more severe punishments for those involved in attacks on transgender people, but was pulled from the Knesset's agenda by coalition chairman David Bitan of the Likud Party before it went to a preliminary vote.

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Parliament member Amir Ohana, the Likud Party's only openly gay legislator and sponsor of the bill, said Bitan removed the bill after pressure from Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, a member of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party.

Ohana called Litzman "the most homophobic minister" in the political system, and criticized Bitman for "caving, not for the first time, to interests that aren't Likud's, values that aren't Likud's."

Bitman responded by saying the bill would not have passed; a rejected bill cannot be brought up again for six months.

"The fact that I removed the bill from the agenda was meant to help, and not the opposite, because now Ohana can try to convince members of the coalition, but if it would have been voted down, it would be over," Bitan said.

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The decision to remove the bill from consideration came the day before the start of Jerusalem's Gay Pride festivities.

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