Israeli lesbians win landmark discrimination case

By Anna Sheinman, September 20, 2012

An Israeli lesbian couple living in London have won a landmark case in an Israeli court preventing non-religious organisations from discriminating on ground of sexuality.

After a four-year wait, Tal Ya'akovovich and Yael Biran were last week awarded NIS 60,000 (£9,500) against the Moshav Yad Hashmona events hall, which is run by messianic Jews. The couple had wished to hold a wedding party for Israeli family and friends following a London civil partnership ceremony, but their reservation was cancelled when the owners realised the event was for a lesbian couple.

Yael Biran, an animator, and her partner, a theatre director, spoke from their home in Lewisham, where they live with their 22-month-old son Ben.

Ms Biran said: "I was so shocked [when the reservation was cancelled]. I called Tal and sobbed down the phone.

"When we had our civil partnership ceremony in Islington Town Hall, we had a vow that thanked everyone who had gone before us and made such a ceremony possible. We realised then it was our turn to do our part".

Israel has progressive anti-discrimination legislation, and when their case was taken up by leading Israeli gay rights lawyer Ira Hada, the couple felt confident they would win.

Ms Ya'akovovich explained: "The law is there, but if it isn't enforced, it carries no weight, this is why this case was so important."

The Jerusalem magistrates' court judge said that even though the function hall was run by religious people, the moshav company which owned it was not in itself religious, and so was not legally exempt.

The second part of the ruling was also a significant step forward for LGBT rights. It was held that sexual assault is not just sexual exploitation, but includes discrimination and humiliation on grounds of sexuality.

Last updated: 2:07pm, September 20 2012