No gay residents in Beit Shemesh, haredi Orthodox mayor says

JERUSALEM (JTA)An LBGT group filed a complaint against the haredi Orthodox mayor of Beit Shemesh after he said on television that his “holy and pure” city does not have homosexual residents.

Moshe Abutbul, who was re-elected three weeks ago after a contentious campaign that pitted secular and more Modern Orthodox residents against haredi Orthodox residents, also told Israel Channel 10 in an interview that aired Friday that the Health Ministry and the police are responsible for handling the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) community.

Asked if the city has gay residents, Abutbul said, “We have no such thing. If you mean what I think you mean, then no. Thank God, this city is holy and pure.”

On Sunday, the Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgendered in Israel filed a complaint against the mayor.

“This constitutes incitement, urging attacks on and a show of contempt for the LGBT community,” said Shai Doitsh, the association’s chairman.

Meanwhile, Abutbul’s mayoral challenger, Eli Cohen, will file a request Monday for new elections with the Jerusalem District Court claiming voting fraud. Complaints of forgery and other irregularities on Election Day have been leveled against Abutbul’s camp.

Beit Shemesh has gained notoriety in recent years for tension between haredi Orthodox and other residents, including harassment of girls on their way to a Modern Orthodox school and attacks on a public bus after a woman refused to move to the back to accommodate haredi Orthodox passengers.

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