Members of Israel's coalition government have been branded 'hypocrites' after they rejected a bill to legalize gay marriage.
The Knesset, which is responsible for passing all laws in the middle-eastern country, today (16 May) threw out legislation put forward by Nitzan Horowitz, of the left-wing Meretz party, which would allow same-sex as well as inter-faith couples to wed.
Openly gay Horowitz said the law change would help thousands of gay couples living in Israel and said coalition parties had betrayed secular voters by pandering to right-wing religious extremists, reported the Jerusalem Post.
Gay Middle East editor in Israel, Shabi Gatenio, said the government has been rejecting gay rights for decades and is not surprised by today's decision.
Speaking to Gay Star News, he said: 'It is a hypocrisy that this government, this prime minister and foreign minister have objected to every pro-gay law we have wanted to pass but are flagging up its positive record on gay rights abroad.'
Dan Littauer, executive editor of Gay Middle East, told GSN that progress in LGBT rights in the state of Israel has almost universally come through the higher courts, with very little coming from government policy or legislation.
He said: 'The Israeli government has done very little for LGBT rights and used propaganda to present itself as a progressive country.
'No government in Israel has legislated for marriage equality. The current government has extreme religious right-wing elements which are known to be actively homophobic and oppose any LGBT legislation.'
Today's decision by the Knesset follows an editorial in left-wing newspaper Haaretz yesterday (15 May) which called on the government to legalize gay marriage, saying the right to marry was 'one of the most fundamental civil liberties'.
'All societies in the world are built around legally sanctioned couplehood, which comes with rights and privileges, legal custody of children and social recognition,' the article read.
'Such sanction represents a fundamental pillar of a society that treasures equality. This being the case, there is no justification for preventing the conferral of such rights to one segment of the population.'
The publication's stance comes days after US President Barack Obama made the historic step of supporting same-sex unions.
Gay couples cannot currently get married in Israel but the government does recognize unions made outside the middle eastern country.
Haaretz is calling on the government to 'correct this injustice'.
Littauer added: 'Heraatz is a progressive left-wing paper. It's scope is limited but it is hoped that other significant papers would be joining this campaign and putting some pressure on the Israeli government.'