Ultra-Orthodox MKs cover faces as first gay Knesset speaker thanks husband

MKs from United Torah Judaism put their heads on the benches as the newly elected speaker thanked his husband and their two children. 

By World News Israel Staff

Despite swearing in the most conservative and religious government in Israel’s history, the country broke another record by electing its first openly gay speaker of the Knesset.

In a strange contradiction that occasionally defines Israel’s parliamentray system — which brought together right-wing, left-wing, and Islamist parties together in the last government — Ohana’s new senior role as overseer of Israel’s parliament was offset by the reaction of his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.

During Ohana’s inaugural speech, MKs Meir Porush and Moshe Gafni from Israel’s ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, covered their faces as the newly elected speaker thanked his husband and their two children.

Israeli media reported that Porush turned to Gafni during the speech, exclaiming, “What is this?”

Ultra-Orthodox MKs did participate in the vote electing Ohana to the position on Thursday, despite walking out of the plenum when he was sworn in as a member of Knesset in 2015.

He received the support of 63 MKs, while five voted against him, and one abstained.

During his speech, Ohana promised that “this Knesset will not harm any child or family. Period.”

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised not to make moves against the LGBTQ community but this week came under fire for signing a controversial coalition agreement with the Religious Zionist party this week that allows a “religious exemption” for business owners to refuse products and services to people on the grounds of religion.

As Netanyahu was sworn in on Thursday, protesters outside the Knesset waved LGBTQ fans as well as Israeli flags. Netanyahu’s coalition has come under fire for including the anti-gay Noam party.

Later in the day, LGBTQ demonstrators blocked the main Tel Aviv highway in protest over the new government.