Homosexuality Legalized in Israel 2019 Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, where hundreds of thousands came to celebrate. Photo: Guy Yechiely, Israel21c.

March 22, 1988

The Knesset repeals a British Mandate-era law banning sex between people of the same gender and thereby legalizes homosexuality in Israel. The repeal is part of a package of sex and sex-crime laws, including an increase in the maximum prison sentence for rapists to 20 years and a ban on the reporting of victims’ names in rape cases. The legislation also legalizes sex between minors so long as they both consent and they are no more than two years apart in age.

The repeal is the culmination of a 10-year struggle to legalize homosexuality in Israel over the opposition of the religious parties, all of which skip the vote. Israel never prosecuted anyone under the homosexuality ban, but its maximum penalty of 10 years in prison created fear in the LGBTQ community.

LGBTQ people now are open participants in all facets of Israeli society, including service in the Israel Defense Forces, the Knesset and the Cabinet. Tel Aviv is recognized as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world with one of the largest pride parades.

But, as with other non-Orthodox marriages, same-sex marriages are recognized in Israel only if they occur abroad. And although Israel provides support for heterosexual couples and single women to hire surrogates to have children, that right does not extend to single men or gay couples.