The Israel Defense Forces banned soldiers from participating in the nationwide strikes Sunday protesting the exclusion of gay men from a recently passed surrogacy law, but also said it would not take action against those who joined the protests.
In a statement, the army said that since “the nature of the protests is ostensibly political, it’s forbidden to participate in these demonstrations.”
The decision was made Saturday by the head of the IDF Manpower Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz. However, Almoz said that while soldiers were officially banned from the protests, the army would not take disciplinary action against those who do choose to participate.
Leading Israeli LGBTQ activist Chen Arieli told the Haaretz daily that she was “deeply disappointed” by the army’s directive, and called on IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot to “clarify that soldiers are not prohibited from participating in the protest rallies.”
Israeli LGBT advocates and their supporters were outraged after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week pledged to pass legislation supporting surrogacy for gay fathers and then voted against it, apparently under pressure from his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.
יש מי שלא התרשם בצבא ההגנה מהאיסור הצהלי. pic.twitter.com/aaEPeC4kse
— Or Heller אור הלר (@OrHeller) July 22, 2018
The protest has generated widespread support and hundreds of Israeli companies said they would allow employees to observe the strike without penalty. Some employers announced they would implement new policies to help their workers become parents via a surrogate, regardless of sexual orientation.
The head of the Histadrut union, Avi Nissenkorn, on Thursday said that the national labor federation would support LGBT members who wish to take part in the strike, calling on unions and management to allow workers to take part in the nationwide strike “without infringing on their rights.”
Hundreds of protesters shouting “shame” marched in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities on Sunday, waving rainbow flags and briefly blocking major roads.
Three people were arrested in the Jerusalem protests near the Prime Minister’s Residence, including a candidate for the Meretz party. It was not immediately clear what led to their arrest.
A surrogacy agreement involves a woman who is willing to carry a pregnancy for another individual or couple, who will become the child’s legal parent or parents after birth.
Until Wednesday’s legislative amendment, the right to surrogacy was only extended to married, heterosexual couples. The legislation now allows single women to become parents via surrogacy. In a further change, surrogacy was previously limited to two children per family, but the new amendment increases the number of children per family unit to five.
In addition, the age limit for surrogate mothers has been raised from 38 to 39, and a surrogate will now be able to give birth five times (including her own children) instead of four as the law currently mandates.
A large demonstration was planned for Sunday night in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.
Agencies contributed to this report.