Jewish Home Knesset faction chair MK Ayelet Shaked defended her party’s opposition to a bill expanding child tax credits for gay fathers, citing the fact that she has gay friends as proof of her acceptance of the community.
A bill that would grant gay fathers equal tax breaks to those enjoyed by women and straight couples passed the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, a crucial step that grants the bill the support of the government — and thus an almost guaranteed parliamentary majority.
Current Israeli law grants higher tax breaks for mothers than for fathers, a situation that puts male gay couples at a disadvantage, since both parents are men. The benefits for each child can reach over NIS 2,600 ($739) a year, or tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a childhood.
Within hours of the bill’s passage through the committee, Shaked sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking him to halt the process and arguing that the bill violates the coalition agreement’s stipulations on the religious status quo due to its far-reaching implications for marriage laws.
“The suggested bill disrupts the status quo between religion and the state as they exist in Israel, and its purpose is to burrow under the public debate on civil marriage which should be undertaken with seriousness,” she wrote.
In an interview with the Mako website, Shaked defended her move and said she harbors no anti-gay sentiments.
“I have nothing against the LGBT community,” she said. “I have friends from the community and wish them only that they live in peace.”
Shaked went on to explain that her party doesn’t object to providing tax benefits for gay parents, but prefers that the benefits be granted through updated tax regulations rather than legislation. In seeking to anchor the benefits in legislation, the bill’s proponents could pave the way to recognizing gay marriage, Shaked warned, which would constitute a major change in the religious status quo.
According to the terms of the coalition agreement that brought the national-religious Jewish Home into the government, the party has the right to veto any laws that change the fragile status quo on religious issues. Marriage services for Jews in Israel are controlled by the state rabbinate. Israel has no civil marriage.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni vowed on Monday to continue pushing for the legislation.
“We will not give up,” Livni wrote in a post on her Facebook page on Monday. “We will continue to fight for equality for all citizens of Israel.”
Finance Minister Yair Lapid, chair of Yesh Atid, also vowed to push the legislation forward, saying on Tuesday that it was not a change in the religious status quo, but rather a simple amendment in tax laws.
The bill was authored by Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol.
MK Kol denied that her bill targets existing marriage law, insisting it merely corrects existing discrimination in the current law.
The bill “seeks to correct a historical injustice and discrimination that has been practiced for years against same-sex couples,” she said, according to Mako. “It in no way disrupts the status quo but rather upholds justice and the principle of equal rights.”
According to Maariv, Shaked asked Netanyahu to put the proposed bill on hold until it can be raised for discussion among all party leaders in the coalition, “and until we arrive at an agreement.”