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Friday, June 7, 2013

Tel Aviv celebrates gay pride festival

Tel Aviv's 15th annual Pride Parade kicked off on Friday, days after police arrested four suspects in connection with the 2009 gay youth center shooting.

According to the Tel Aviv municipality, over 100,000 people took part in the celebration which is the culmination of Israel's Pride Month events. Many tourists have arrived in Israel specifically to participate in the parade. 

Among those who spoke at the event were Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Opposition Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat.
Lapid's speech was interrupted as the crowd booed him and chanted such slogans as "No future with Bibi and Lapid."

The minister declared that "any couple is entitled to get married" and said he would promote legislation legalizing gay marriage.

Yachimovich stressed that the issue of gay marriage is a cross-party affair. "We're all with you, we're all committed. But - and it's a big but – it's not enough to say that we love you. Don't let us off the hook – demand concrete steps."

Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On addressed the police's assertion that the gay center shooting was not a hate crime. "What nonsense," she declared. "The crime scene was a gay community institution and the victims were members of the community. Taking a weapon to hurt someone is hate. Spraying bullets at innocent people is hate."
Earlier, thousands gathered at the Meir Park where a makeshift chuppah was erected. Lior and Assaf have already "tied the knot" there. "We're not partners, just good friends, but believe in the rights of same sex couples."

Two women arrived at the park with the three-year-old daughter. "It was important for us to come so that people can see families, not just young guys in shorts. It was important for us that our kids see other families like ours. We're no different than any other married straight couple with kids."

Tel Aviv councilman Yaniv Weizman said that a special meeting had been convened in the wake of the developments in the gay center shooting in which it was decided to go ahead with the parade. "Innocents were murdered, and it doesn't matter what the motives were," he said.

"This was a defining moment in the history of the state and of the community, which remains an open wound. It serves as a reminder to us all of the importance of taking to the streets."

Among the tourists who arrived in Israel to take part in Pride Month events were Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau – the first gay couple to get married in France. "We are here for the first time on an invitation to discover the city," they said.

Following developments in the gay center shooting investigation it has been revealed that undercover detectives have taken part in pride parades over the past four years in order to gather intelligence and provide security. "There was not one event in the past four years that we missed," said a police official.

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