LGBT rights have not really been a part of Arab countries agenda when it comes to their constitutions. It’s illegal, and there isn’t much tolerance when it comes to the topic. However, the stance of Arab countries on LGBT rights has been challenged by Lebanon when a Lebanese judge conceded that homosexuality should not be illegal!

The topic of LGBT rights is not really unusual. It has come up a few times before in Lebanon, and Lebanese people have been trying to get their rights acknowledged. Last year, around 50 activists gathered outside Hbeish Gendarmerie in Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon in protest against laws that criminalize homosexuality. The protest was organized by an association called Helem, an LGBT rights group, who held banners with the slogans “Sex is not illegal, your law is archaic” and “Homosexuality is not a disease”.

That along with Judge Rabih Maalouf’s declaration “Homosexuality is a personal choice and not a punishable offence” in a court ruling, abolishing a case that was held against a trans-woman who was accused of having a same sex relationship with a man, in reference to Article 183 could be changing LGBT rights’ image and stance not only in Lebanon, but the whole Middle East.

Article 183 states that “An act undertaken in exercise of a right without abuse shall not be regarded as an offence”. However, the article along with the ruling of Judge Rabih Maalouf contradicts with Article 534, which regards homosexuality as illegal since the article prohibits sexual relations that “Contradict with the law of nature” making homosexuality punishable by up to a year in prison.

LGBTQ rights supporters have been rejoicing ever since the ruling on Thursday, and they remain hopeful that what happened in Lebanon could be the start to a more tolerant Middle East when it comes to LGBT rights.