Amir Ohana has become Israel’s first openly gay prime minister, but some pride goers aren’t happy about it.
43-year-old Ohana has been named acting justice minister this Wednesday after the previous title holder was fired. Ayelet Shaked, the previous office holder, was fired by right-winged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Shaked’s party did not get enough seats to return to parliament for elections in May.
When announcing Ohana, a former lawyer and loyal member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, as the replacement, Netanyahu noted how Ohana is “very familiar with the justice system.”
One way that Ohana has shown his loyalty is by backing a controversial bill that granted a sitting prime minister immunity from prosecution.
Despite being openly gay, Ohana’s promotion was not graced with joy and applause from LGBTQ citizens. In fact, the justice minister was met with boos and jeering at the recent Jerusalem pride parade this past Thursday.
“What have you done for the gay community,” one pride goer shouted out at Ohana as he was surrounded by security guards.
Despite this pushback, Ohana later released a video sharing his respect for the Pride march and the LGBTQ rights movement.
“The Jerusalem [pride] march is very important to me because Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the seat of government and legal institutions. As a liberal, who believes with all his heart in freedom of expression, I said to the group of protesters who demonstrated against me, [who] weren’t ultra-Orthodox or religious, [that] it is important they came here,” Ohana said.
He then added, “I hope this doesn’t overshadow the main message meant to come out of this event: It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or secular, left-wing or right-wing, LGBT or not, the message is one of tolerance.”
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) June 5, 2019
Ironically, Ohana has supported LGBTQ issues in government numerous times. He has supported the legalization of same-sex marriage and voted against party lines in favor of a bill widening anti-discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Ohana was also briefly removed from a Knesset committee as punishment for protesting the government’s refusal to back equality for same-sex couples adopting children in Israel.
Then last July, Ohana was a part of the pull for the Israeli government to extend surrogacy rights to same-sex couples.
“When my husband and I wanted to raise a family, we had to travel thousands of kilometers to another country. The twins were born prematurely and we were not by their sides,” Ohana told a committee meeting at the time. “I had to turn the world upside down to find a Jew, who did not know me but lived nearby, to be by their sides. I am not defying the rabbinate and going against religion, just asking for a bit of humanity.”