High Court hears petition on adoption by LGBTQ couples: ‘Decision cannot be avoided’

Justice Uzi Vogelman says ruling on matter will be necessary as there is ‘no prospect that this will come to legislation’

A family at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, before the start of a hearing on the Child Adoption Law, on August 2, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A family at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, before the start of a hearing on the Child Adoption Law, on August 2, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The High Court heard a petition Thursday against discrimination toward LGBTQ couples who wish to adopt, and indicated it might move to resolve the issue in the absence of a legislative solution.

The discussions on the Child Adoption Law ended without a decision, but the three-judge panel made it clear that the current situation was untenable and cannot be ignored, given that there is no legislation on the matter on the horizon.

The petition, filed by civil and LGBTQ rights organizations and several couples, calls for broadening the interpretation of the current adoption law so that it includes same-sex couples among the exceptions to the general rule favoring married heterosexual couples in adopting children.

Current policy only enables same-sex couples to adopt children for whom no heterosexual married couple can be found. Also, same-sex couples are made to wait longer to adopt and must legally adopt as individuals and not as a couple.

The court was originally petitioned on the matter in 2017. Following deliberations, the state promised to amend the law. Six years later, the Knesset has still not taken any legislative action to eliminate discrimination.

Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman noted in court that a decision needed to be reached as the issue was unlikely to be solved through legislation, and the matter has remained unresolved for a number of years. It remained unclear when the court would issue a ruling.

“We understand that there is absolutely no prospect that this will come to legislation,” Vogelman said, according to the Ynet news site. “We are once again at a crossroads where… an interpretive decision cannot be avoided.”

Along with Vogelman, the court’s deputy president, the petition was heard by justices Alex Stein and Gila Kanfi-Steinitz.

Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, before the start of a hearing against the Child Adoption Law, on August 2, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to the Walla news site, Justice Minister Yariv Levin has said it would be “impossible” to pass a law on the issue.

Welfare Minister Ya’akov Margi said last week in response to the petition that the current law should not be amended or reinterpreted because allowing a child to be adopted by a same-sex couple would be against the child’s best interests.

According to the minister, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, allowing children to be adopted by a same-sex couple “would add additional complexities to their lives” and the government should “preserve as much as possible the lifestyle and family framework in which they were born.”

In her response to the petition, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said last week that the ideal way to solve the issue was through Knesset legislation, though she acknowledged this was currently politically infeasible.

Nevertheless, Baharav-Miara wrote in her response that there are reasonable interpretations of the law that grant same-sex couples adoption rights.

In February, an opposition bill granting same-sex couples adoption rights was voted down. Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, who is openly gay, was the only coalition member to vote for the bill.

The Israeli Medical Association released a position paper Wednesday supporting the rights of same-sex couples to adopt. The organization cited overwhelming amounts of academic and clinical research indicating that the placement of a child in a loving and supporting home regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents is in the best interests of the child.

According to the IMA, there is 40 years’ worth of research on LGBTQ adoption and the leading American organizations dealing with child and adolescent physical and mental health have all taken positions in favor of same-sex couple adoption since the early 2000s.

The IMA stated that “as professionals, we call on the Justice Ministry and Welfare Ministry to adopt the majority opinion among professionals in Israel and around the world that LGBTQ individuals are qualified to adopt children just like heterosexuals.”

“The discrimination based on sexual orientation in this matter must end,” it says.

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