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Gay, observant - and sponsored by Google

    For the first time, Orthodox gay and lesbian groups had a float at Tel Aviv's Gay Pride parade last Friday. And it had corporate sponsorship that other larger organisations on the march would have given anything for - from Google.

    Aboard the float, members of the Havruta gay organisation, the Bat Kol lesbian group, and Pride Minyan, a Tel Aviv prayer group for gay men and lesbian women, blasted out Chasidic music. Notably absent was another Orthodox gay organisation, Kamoha, which felt that marching was inappropriate.

    But Havruta spokesman Daniel Jonas said that it was important for Orthodox groups to be there, both for the sake of secular marchers and for the Orthodox community.

    While Orthodox gay and lesbian groups have acquired large followings in the past five years - 150 people regularly attend Havura events, and Bat Kol has 400 members - he believes that many people still do not know about them or fear making contact. "People sitting at home feeling alienated from their communities see us on TV, and it's an important way of letting them know that we're here for them," he said.

    For the other marchers, "it's a way of saying that you can be gay and still have a relationship with Judaism, even with Orthodoxy".

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