Deputy Education Minister Avi Wortzman of the right-wing Jewish Home party denounced the idea of tax breaks to same-sex couples on Tuesday, saying “a family is a father, mother, and child, and not two fathers and a child.”
Wortzman was responding to a complaint, presented by Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol, from a male homosexual couple who reportedly received a letter from the Tax Authority denying their request for tax breaks and suggesting they find a wife. He was speaking at a conference on child welfare at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba.
“You won’t define what a family is,” Kol replied.
Kol is the co-sponsor of a bill with Finance Minister Yair Lapid that aims to alter current Israeli law under which higher tax breaks are granted to mothers than to fathers, putting male gay couples at a disadvantage. The benefits for each child can reach over NIS 2,600 ($740) a year.
Dror Mizrahi, the chairman of the Meretz party’s LGBT forum, panned Wortzman’s comments and appealed to the government to fire him.
“The Israeli government needs to condemn Wortzman’s remarks and remove him from any position with an educational component,” he said. “Wortzman is not the only one in his party holding these sort of medieval opinions that view the family unit through archaic and outdated eyes.”
The bill passed its preliminary reading on December 25 by a 40 to 20 margin, but stirred quite a bit of controversy in Knesset. It has to pass several more readings before it is signed into law.
The Jewish Home party, which strongly opposed the law at first because it saw the references to gay couples as a step toward legalizing civil marriage in Israel, claimed that after passing the preliminary reading the law was to be changed. The updated version, from which of all references to same-sex couples were to be expunged, would instead simply empower the interior minister to apply regulations giving gay couples tax benefits equal to those of heterosexual couples.
By contrast, Yesh Atid asserted that the law would continue as originally drafted.
“This law will not go away and it will be promoted in the standard process of passing laws,” Lapid said. “Because it comes from the sacred principle that says every person has a right to live.”
Nonetheless, Lapid appeared to be evasive when challenged by opposition MKs to give his assurances that the law would be advanced in its current format and responded only that it would necessarily be reworked in the coalition committee, over which he does not have control.