President Reuven Rivlin was one of the first public figures in Israel to accept members of the LGBT community as equals, saying that no one should be criticized for his or her sexual orientation. As Knesset speaker, he hosted the community annually, close to the date of the Gay Pride Parade and continued to do so as president of the State of Israel.

He did so again on Thursday at his official residence. The meeting was in memory of Shira Banki who was stabbed by a religious zealot while marching in the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade in 2015 in support of her friends, though she herself was heterosexual.

“Everyone has the right to love in accordance with how he or she feels. A person’s nature is a person’s nature and nothing can be done about it,” said Rivlin, who embraced Roi, the child of the late Amir Fryszer Guttman, who drowned while rescuing his niece and saving her life. A singer, musician, choreographer and actor, the late Fryszer Guttman had been diagnosed (allegedly misdiagnosed) with cancer, and his family claims that the heavy dosage of chemotherapy had weakened his system to the extent that he was unable to save himself after saving his niece.

Rivlin said that he could see that there was a significant development in public attitudes towards the LGBT community. “The tragedies which have been visited on you have changed the manner in which the public relates to you,” he said, adding that he knew that it wasn’t enough, but took comfort in the fact that it was at least a forward step.

Relating specifically to Banki, Rivlin turned to her father and spoke of the dangers of incitement.

The meeting was also attended by Open House representatives who ensure that members of the LGBT community have place to go where they feel comfortable, unashamed and safe.