Jerusalem City Hall on Thursday announced it would not allow the planned annual gay pride parade to go ahead next week, saying the march would offend many of the Holy City's residents and set off unrest. Organizers of the local event--which has nothing to do with WorldPride 2005, a 10-day event scheduled to take place in Jerusalem in 2006--appealed to the supreme court to repeal the ruling, saying the decision is a violation of the gay and lesbian community's freedom of expression.
The city council, including the mayor, decided that "it is not right to allow the march or other planned activities to take place in the streets of Jerusalem, fearing that it will create an uproar, offend a wide sector of city residents...out of fear of public disturbances," said Eitan Meir, director general of
City Hall in a letter to organizers. A majority of Jerusalem's more than 600,000 residents are either Orthodox Jews or Muslim or Christian Palestinians, and their conservative teachings include negative views on homosexuality.
The march, scheduled for next Thursday, was to be the fourth annual parade. Previous events have passed peacefully, attended by several thousand people, with only minor incidents of vandalism and protest. However, they took place under heavy security. The organizers of the parade, the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, appealed to the court to allow the march to proceed. "The actions of the mayor, and those carrying out his policies, are injurious to the values of freedom of expression," said Hagai El-Ad, director of Open House. "The city of Jerusalem continues in its discriminatory policy against the Jerusalem Open House and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Jerusalem," El-Ad said.
Jerusalem's Orthodox mayor, Uri Lupolianski, has openly expressed his personal opposition to the parades in previous years but let them go ahead, claiming the decision fell under police jurisdiction. Officials at City Hall refused to explain the change in policy. While police have the authority to allow public events, the city can bar the marchers from public parks and refuse to decorate the route with flags and other decorations as they have in previous years. Jerusalem police said they would wait for the court decision before making their own ruling. The court is set to hear the appeal Sunday.
El-Ad said other events associated with Pride Month would go ahead regardless. The city decision comes just weeks after the Jerusalem Open House postponed WorldPride 2005, a 10-day gathering that includes street parties, workshops, and a gay film festival, until August 2006. Muslim, Jewish, and Christian religious groups had hotly opposed holding the festival in Jerusalem. Representatives of the group said the delay was not related to the religious opposition but to the fact that the festival would have coincided with the planned Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, set for mid August. The withdrawal, and the protests planned to go along with it, are expected to tie up police around the country, leaving no security for the event. (AP)