Israel appoints gay activist as labor court judge

(Dori Spivak) דורי ספיבק

While Israel’s executive branch has become quite conservative, it’s judicial branch always has been very liberal.

This week, LGBT rights activist Dori Spivak was appointed to the national labor court in Tel Aviv, according to the Israeli newspaper Ma’Ariv. While other openly gay judges have been appointed in the past, his appointment is being hailed as the first appointment of someone who has advocated for LGBT rights.

Spivak, a graduate of Harvard, is best known for serving as chairman of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. In 1997, he won a case in the Supreme Court that allowed Israeli television to air a program about gay teens.

Ma’Ariv, a moderate Israeli newspaper, opens its coverage of the appointment by saying, “The appointment of attorney Dori Spivak as judge to make waves.”

But the concerns the newspaper details have nothing to do with Spivak’s sexual orientation. They worry about his appointment to a court that has ruled in the past that a company doesn’t have a religion so that forbidding work on Sabbath is not relevant. They also voice concern over how he might rule on cases brought by settlers in the West Bank.

“Nevertheless, controversial political views should not disqualify a candidate for judicial office,” the newspaper concludes without mentioning anything about his sexual orientation.

All of Israel’s LGBT rights have been gained through the courts, including pension benefits for same-sex partners of military personnel, recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere and adoption rights.

—  David Taffet

In midst of gay teen suicide crisis, Houston’s Kinkaid School removes Safe Space stickers

Texas Monthly‘s March issue features an interesting piece (already available online to subscribers) about the ideological battle that’s gripped Houston’s prestigious Kinkaid School since a parent — who also happened to be one of the highest-paid bankers on Wall Street — wrote an e-mail that went viral in 2009 complaining that the school had become too liberal.

Texas Monthly‘s John Spong concludes that in the aftermath of the e-mail, conservatives appear to have won the day at George W. Bush’s alma mater: At least three openly gay Kinkaid staffers have resigned their posts, sexual orientation is excluded from a new diversity policy at the school, and GLSEN Safe Space stickers were removed from classrooms and offices:

With gay suicides and bullying in national headlines, that move struck many as beyond tone-deaf. For them, the school’s reasoning—that the stickers implied that one group was more protected than others—showed greater concern for some people’s political views than for the welfare of vulnerable students. The same objection was raised when the board clarified its edict on “student exposure to issues relating to sexual orientation.” Faculty had pointed out that kids trying to understand their sexual identity often reach out to them; a gay Kinkaid alum I talked to credited one such teacher with saving his life. Could that conversation now get a teacher fired? The board stressed that the proper place for these sorts of conversations was at home or in a counselor’s office, adding that teachers were not to initiate those discussions. As one current faculty member put it, “We’re allowed to have those conversations; we’re just not allowed to tell the kids we’re allowed to have those conversations. That’s the thing that’s confusing.”

—  John Wright