Israel became the first country in the Middle East Wednesday to take a step toward outlawing so-called “gay conversion” therapy on Wednesday.
The bill, introduced by the left-wing Meretz party, opposition lawmaker Nitzan Horowitz, was approved by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in a vote of 42 to 36, according to AFP.
It still needs to undergo two more rounds of voting in parliament to become law, and it could be blocked by members of the country’s center-right coalition.
“Amazing news for the Israeli public and the LGBTQ+ community at whole,” said opposition leader Nitzan Horowitz after the vote, per the Jerusalem Post. ”Today a historic change is beginning in Israel. I thank the MKs who voted in support of the freedom and equality in order to stop the horror of ‘conversion therapy’, and for everyone who acted, initiated, wrote, shared and fought for the life of the LGBTQ+ community. You helped save lives today.”
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The term “conversion therapy” refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy that aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity. The practice, which is regarded as harmful by medical organizations worldwide, has been banned in a few other countries as well.
Ultra-Orthodox leader Yaakov Litzman, the housing minister to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, condemned his”rotten” coalition partners who supported the bill.
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Despite openly gay ministers in parliament, anti-discrimination laws, and other rights for the LGBTQ community, Netanyahu deplored comments by his education minister, Rafi Peretz last year, calling it “unacceptable” that Peretz said he condoned conversion therapy.