- Anti-discrimination law takes precedence over religious homophobia.
Magistrates in Israel have ruled a print shop must compensate an LGBT+ association after it refused to serve them.
The Beersheba Magistrates Court said the duty to serve customers comes before religious beliefs.
The ironically named Rainbow Color print shop refused to print posters for the Ben Gurion University LGBT group three years ago. The university is also in Beersheba – also spelled Be’er Sheva – in the Negev region in the south of Israel.
The owners told the university group at the time: ‘We do not deal with abomination materials. We are Jews!’
But The Aguda Association for LGBT Equality in Israel filed a NIS100,000 ($28,134) lawsuit against the business.
Providing service comes first
Aguda argued that Rainbow Color had violated discrimination laws. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, passed the laws in 2000. They protect LGBT+ people from being discriminated against in providing products, services and entry to public places.
However, Rainbow Color claimed its religious owners can not serve people who offend against religious law. It cited two Orthodox rabbis who have said Jewish law bans the publication of posters like the ones the group wanted.
Judge Orit Lipshitz rejected the defendant’s claim. The court ordered Rainbow Color to pay NIS 50,000 ($14,071), plus legal expenses.
In a written judgment, Lipshitz said:
‘The court does not seek to enter into the consciousness of service providers… when it comes to their subjective opinions with regard to others.
‘The legislature also does not seek to interfere with the freedom of religion and worship reserved for them as human beings.’
However, she concluded: ‘When their beliefs conflict with a necessity of providing service to all in a public space, the last value holds superior’.
‘Clear and just ruling prohibits discrimination’
Aguda’s CEO Ohad Hizki welcomed the ruling. He said:
‘It is unacceptable for a business that provides a public service to decide to discriminate against an entire population of Israeli society simply because of its sexual orientation or gender identity.
‘To this day, thousands of companies and community members suffer discrimination, hatred and violence just because of who they are.
‘We applaud this clear and just ruling that prohibits unfair discrimination and [will] continue to fight for anyone and everyone to receive full equality of rights.’
The right-wing legal aid organization Honenu had represented Rainbow Color. And Menashe Yado, of Honenu legal aid organization cited the Torah – Jewish religious law – in criticizing the ruling.
Yado said: ‘Every religious Jew knows that the people of Israel have managed to survive thousands of years thanks to the Torah teachings of Israel.’
Meanwhile Israel’s Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich called the ruling ‘outrageous’. The Times of Israel reports he said:
‘[The court] is forcing a religious and mitzvah-keeping man to act against his belief at his private business.’
Smotrich has called himself a ‘proud homophobe’. Indeed, in 2006 he organized a ‘Beast Parade’ in Jerusalem to respond to the city’s Pride parade. Moreover, in July 2015, after a fatal stabbing attack at Jerusalem Pride, he referred to the march as an ‘abomination’.
And LGBT+ people haven’t always won the day in Beersheba. Organizers had to call off the city’s first Pride event in 2016. The Supreme Court had restricted the march’s route over police fears of ‘life-threatening violence’ against participants.