Editors' Note: Lillian Faderman has published eight books on LGBT history and literature. She is the recipient of six Lambda Literary Awards and several LGBT lifetime achievement awards. Lillian is responding to Alex Blaze's post, "Palestinian Gays Are Palestinian Too," critiquing an article Lillian wrote for the Advocate magazine.
In his editorial that is a response to the article Roz Rothstein and I wrote for the Advocate, Alex Blaze suggests that the immediate granting of statehood to Palestine would enhance economic development and thus give the Palestinian gay rights movement "a chance to breathe" - as though national wealth and gay rights were automatically connected. If that were so, Alex, how does one explain the fact that in oil-drenched countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran homosexuals are put to death?
He further suggests that, according to a young Israeli who recently visited him, gay rights in Israel are not far advanced. However, from what we've been able to learn, LGBT people have as many rights and more than even American LGBT people, and they've had them for a long time.
Israel passed a law in 1992 that protects any citizen (Jewish, Christian, or Muslim) from employment discrimination for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Our Israeli brothers and sisters have been able to serve openly in the military since 1993, and since 1997 a same-sex partner is recognized by the Israeli Defense Department as a member of the soldier's family. Lesbian and gay couples have full inheritance rights under Israeli law. In 1994, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of granting spousal benefits to same-sex couples. In 2004, the Court ruled that LGBT couples could qualify for common-law marriage status. In 2005, legislation was passed in Israel recognizing all same-sex marriages that are performed abroad.
In many parts of the Middle East (though obviously not in Israel) if a family wishes to rid itself of the embarrassment of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender member by "honor killing" there is no legal consequences, including in the area governed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, as well as in Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria. As even the Amnesty International LGBT website shows, there's no Middle Eastern country other than Israel in which lesbian or gay couples can receive spousal benefits, none other than Israel in which lesbians and gays can serve openly in the military, none other than Israel that protects lesbians and gays from discrimination or hate crimes. Although only in Iran and Saudi Arabia are LGBT people put to death, they don't fare very well in most other Middle Eastern countries. In Syria they're thrown in prison for three years. In Egypt, they're prosecuted under lewd conduct laws; they're illegal in Lebanon and Libya, too.
Palestinian LGBT people have no reason to be hopeful if Palestine is granted statehood.