Homosexuals Challenge Jerusalem for Refusing 'Gay Pride' Parade

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Jerusalem's homosexual community on Thursday challenged the city's decision to cancel this year's "Gay Pride" parade because it might offend city residents and disrupt the public order, the city's general manager said in a letter.

The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH), the city's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender center, was scheduled to hold its fourth annual parade in Jerusalem next week.

In a letter to JOH general manager Haggai Elad, Jerusalem Municipality General Manager Eitan Meir said that due to "the sensitivity and complexity of the matter," he had personally consulted with Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski about the parade request.

Meir said the mayor told him the municipality "respects the views and wishes" of all city residents and makes every effort to allow everyone to live according to his or her own lifestyle "without hurting the delicate fiber" of life in the city.

Nevertheless, the mayor reportedly said that it was the municipality's duty to "weigh all the interests of the entire public" to "prevent tensions and conflicts between the different groups living in the city."

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all view homosexuality as a sin and Jerusalem as a holy city.

The homosexual community in Tel Aviv has held large events for years. But the movement brought its parades to Jerusalem just four years ago under former Mayor Ehud Olmert, who also struggled to prevent them.

The current mayor, Lupolianski, is the city's first Orthodox Jewish mayor. He has come under criticism from his own community for not preventing the parades from taking place in the city. The homosexual community also has criticized him for not supporting them.

Meir quoted Lupolianski as saying that former "Pride" parades held here had an "offending and disruptive" effect on "substantial parts" of the Jerusalem public and had caused incitement and provocations in the past and could do the same in the future.

In previous years, only a handful of Orthodox Jews turned out to protest against the pride parade. But opposition to such events in the city has been growing since JOH announced that it would host an international "WorldPride" event here.

This year the Muslim community was planning to protest the "Gay Pride" parade.

Lupolianski called a meeting of the city's management, which unanimously decided that "it would be wrong to allow the parade and other events relating to it, to take place in the streets of Jerusalem, out of concern that it may cause incitement, hurt the feelings of a large part of the public living in the city and [those] visiting it, and out of fear it may disrupt public order," Meir said.

In response, JOH said the event would take place as scheduled and it anticipated that thousands of participants would attend. OH said it has filed a petition with the district court, which is due to be heard early next week,.

"We are confident that the democratic values of freedom of speech and equality will prevail. Pride will take place on June 30 as scheduled," JOH said.

The petition filed by JOH accuses the mayor and his subordinates of taking actions that are "injurious to the values of freedom of expression." It says that by ignoring the appeals of the homosexual community, city officials are seriously and intentionally violating "good faith" and the "principle of equality."

JOH accused the mayor and the municipality of carrying out discriminatory policies against the LGBT community in Jerusalem. Last year, the municipality refused to display the "Gay Pride" flags along the parade route as they do for most other events.

The homosexual festival is already underway in Jerusalem, with last week's opening of an art exhibition dealing with "homoeroticism in the fervently Orthodox world," JOH said.

The last word on the parade actually belongs to the Israeli police, who ultimately issue the permits for public events to take place.

A decision has not yet been made on the parade, a police spokesperson said. A decision will be made in the coming days, and it will take into consideration the decision of the court, she said.

JOH decided to hold the local parade after it postponing the WorldPride event, which would have taken place in late August. The center said it delayed the international gathering because of Israel's planned implementation of the disengagement plan to dismantle Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank at the same time.

That World Pride event is now scheduled for next summer.

In a rare show of solidarity, Jews, Christians and Muslims from Israel and the U.S. launched at least two initiatives calling on the government to ban the international event for religious reasons.

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