Navigate to News section

The New Unlikely Champion of Same-Sex Marriage in Israel is a Haredi MK

By attending the wedding of his gay nephew, Yigal Guata became an unlikely defender of LGBT rights

Liel Leibovitz
September 08, 2017
Courtesy the Knesset
Courtesy the Knesset
Courtesy the Knesset
Courtesy the Knesset

Yigal Guata, a Member of Knesset from the Haredi Shas party, emerged this week as the champion of an unlikely cause: same-sex unions.

Gay marriage is still not legal in Israel, but when Guata’s nephew, who had married his boyfriend abroad, held a ceremony to celebrate his nuptials, Guata did not think twice before attending.

Almost immediately, prominent rabbis took to the airwaves to denounce Guata and call for his resignation. “Attending the wedding of two men is just as despicable as homosexuality,” said Shmuel Eliyahu, Tzfat’s influential chief rabbi, and Shlomo Benizri, a former Shas MK and a haredi radio personality, called Guata’s actions “blasphemous” and encouraged Shas’s voters to take to the streets and protest.

But Guata himself remained unmoved. He may be halachically opposed to gay marriage, he told Israeli Army Radio, but he’s a firm believer in letting his family members know he loves them and supports them no matter what.

“I grew up in a mixed family,” he said. “I have secular brothers, I have religious brothers, and I have a haredi sister. We grew up in a home that stressed love and fraternity and peace, and we’re all still very close.” And the fact that no other current Shas officials criticized him for his actions, he added, suggests that they, too, agree that basic decency and kindness precede, as the old saying goes, even the dictums of the Torah. Amen to that, brother.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.