Israel’s Meretz party becomes country’s first to elect an openly gay leader

(JTA) — Israel’s Meretz party became the first to elect as its leader an openly gay person.

The left-wing party picked Nitzan Horowitz as its new head on Thursday in Tel Aviv.

Horowitz, a former journalist who served in the Knesset in 2009-2015, defeated incumbent Tamar Zandberg.

“Meretz doesn’t treat members of the LGBTQ community as fig leaves,” he said following his election. “We will fight for our freedom to live a free life and have equal rights in this country.

The new party leader said he would prioritize fighting religious coercion and supporting social justice in his new role.

There have been reports that former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who announced on Wednesday that he would form a new political party, is looking to form a coalition with the Labor and Meretz parties.

Earlier this month, Israel got its first openly gay government minister when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Amir Ohana to serve as Justice Minister.