The government’s declared opposition Sunday to allowing same-sex couples to adopt children in Israel prompted an avalanche of criticism on Monday, including from one of its own key ministers.
In a submission from the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs in response to a petition, the state told the High Court that it opposes allowing same-sex couples to adopt because of the “additional burden” this would place on the child, though it said it would for the first time allow common-law couples that have been together for at least three years to adopt.
Leading a chorus of criticism of the government’s position, gay Israeli pop star Harel Skaat targeted Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, accusing her of perpetuating stigmas for young children and treating homosexuals as second-rate citizens.
In a bitter post on his Facebook page Sunday, Skaat called on young members of the LGBT community to refuse to serve in the army and to stop paying taxes in protest over the government’s declared opposition to allowing same-sex couples to adopt children. On Monday, directly criticizing Shaked (of the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party), Skaat charged in an Army Radio interview: “She is only perpetuating the differentiation… All of your rights are taken away. You want to have children? Sorry, you aren’t good enough for that, you are a second-class citizen. Shaked is making children who go to kindergarten look at the children of gay parents in a different way.”
Harel said he and his partner were currently working on conceiving a child via a surrogate mother.
The government’s response Sunday to the High Court petition was submitted jointly by Shaked’s Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs. The petition was filed by the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers and the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform movement.
The government told the court that “the professional opinion of the Child Welfare Services supports preserving the existing situation” that the adopting couple be a man and a woman. This “takes into account the reality of Israeli society and the difficulty it may entail with regard to the child being adopted,” it noted.
Bizarrely, Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz (Likud) on Monday criticized the state’s response, saying it had not been correctly formulated and should not have been submitted. The minister “does not intend to deny this or that group from the ability to adopt,” his ministry said in a statement. Rather, it said, Katz supports a position that had been agreed with the Justice Ministry that provides for “a wide-ranging reform in adoption services.”
In an Army Radio interview earlier Monday, Orna Hirschfeld, the official at the ministry responsible for adoption services, had backed the state’s position, saying there was concern at the difficulties children adopted by same-sex couples might face.
Zvi Fischler, the head of the Association of Israeli Psychiatrists, said Monday there was no evidence to support the government’s claim of an “additional burden” for the child and that the state’s position was “motivated by factors others than the well-being of the child.” Even in the most enlightened societies, he told Army Radio, “there can be sectors of the populace that are less accepted, and the child can deal with these things.”
Several lawmakers on Sunday condemned the government’s decision.
Meretz’s Michal Rozin, who heads the Knesset’s LGBT lobby; Yael German of Yesh Atid; Merav Michaeli of the Zionist Union; and Kulanu’s Merav Ben Ari said in a statement that the decision was homophobic and showed the government’s cynical exploitation of the homosexual community.
“This is a foolish and discriminatory decision that is accompanied by unprecedented homophobia,” they said. “The Israeli government is again abandoning the gay community and this highlights government’s cynical use of the community: In English they boast about [being a gay-friendly country], but in Hebrew they deny basic rights.”
After meeting with gay youth in Beersheba, Skaat wrote on his Facebook page that “the day will come in a few years’ time when you will need to join the army and do your bit…as an Israeli who is crazy about his country and proud to be Jewish and talks about that on any platform around the world, that proudly served in the army, whose partner is a major in the IDF and serves nearly a month [reserve duty] every year to this day, I call on you to not join the army! And you know what, also don’t pay any taxes on the money you are going to earn, and in general anything that the country asks you to do simply don’t give a shit. That is what it is doing to you in everything regarding the equal rights (!!!) that you deserve.”
Skaat lashed out at Shaked and “the other cowardly politicians like you. You don’t deserve us. If only the millions of people who attended the last gay pride in Tel Aviv so that you could glorify yourselves before the enlightened world with your false acceptance will become an alternative force and toss you out already. There is a new generation here that won’t bear that hypocrisy much longer.”
Opposition MK Nachman Shai of the Zionist Union tweeted his support Monday for Skaat, writing “Harel is right. A sweeping protest against the prohibition on adoption.”
While gay couples cannot adopt in Israel, they frequently travel overseas to adopt children.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.