Members of the lesbian, gay, bi- and transsexual (LGBT ) community are about to launch a new faction of the Labor Party. Niv Zonis and Dan Slyper established the faction in order to advance the community’s rights, including changing the party’s platform, promoting legislation and wielding influence in various forums, including fielding a GLBT candidate for the Knesset. The pair also hopes to return voters, who bolted to other parties, mainly Kadima, back to Labor.
The faction was welcomed by party leader MK Shelley Yachimovich. All Labor MKs, except for Raleb Majadele, added their names to the list supporting the establishment of the faction.
"We would like to promote the party in the gay community and [promote] the community in the party," explained Zonis, a student at the Hebrew University’s Revivim program in Jewish education. "We want to increase Labor membership as well as the number of party-affiliated voters in the community. Among other things, we are talking about changing the party platform, which currently contains [only] one sentence of opposition to discrimination, and promoting laws that would enable equal rights, for example, in marriage, adoption and other problematic areas. Until today there has been almost no legislation for the community, except for that of [former Meretz leader] Shulamit Aloni which repealed the law against male homosexuality. All other rights have been gained via the courts."
Party teams will decide on operative steps only after the official formation of the faction, after its anticipated approval by the party in coming weeks. Meanwhile the Zonis and Slyper are gathering members mainly via a Facebook page.
"First of all we want to bring the gay community back to the Labor Party," said Slyper, a 34-year-old software engineer and a party member for the last six years. "The community may be found today in many other parties which are not its natural habitats. It is important for us to return them out of faith in the justice of our way."
The two have no research on the community’s voting patterns, but Slyper says he is convinced that many have been voting for Kadima. "It is well known that in the past many members of the community were positive about Kadima. Before the previous elections, people went for Tzipi [Livni]. Livni is a worthy candidate, but in our opinion the Labor Party led by Shelly is the right option."
Slyper adds that, "It is important to us that the community be active through Labor Party members currently in the Knesset and certainly through Yachimovich. We believe she supports the community and will know how to promote our agendas. It is important to make clear that the faction within the party is consensual and we intend to become part of the party mainstream."
"We don’t want to represent only the ‘state of Tel Aviv,’" he said. "There are gays and lesbians in all sectors of the population and it’s very important to us that the faction be as broad as possible and represent as many constituencies as possible."
Yachimovich welcomed the establishment of the faction. "Since I am completely gay-friendly, obviously this fits with my election as party leader," she said. "[The faction] has ideological significance; the community’s interests are important to me. It is a group that influences and leads, a cultural elite, people who are very political and aware whom I want to see with me in the party, with full political power. From my point of view this is a welcome development, and I will do everything to make it a significant and influential faction."