Cabinet committee rejects same-sex housing benefits law

Gay couples already enjoy married mortgage benefit due to regulations; ministers deny government support for making it law

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Hadash MK Dov Khenin. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Hadash MK Dov Khenin. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation unanimously rejected Sunday a bill that would enshrine in law married mortgage benefits for same-sex couples.

The ministers saw the proposal as unnecessary, a cabinet statement said Sunday afternoon, since a government regulation in force since 2007 already grants same-sex couples those same benefits.

The legislation was sponsored by MK Dov Khenin of Hadash, a mixed Jewish-Arab communist party.

“The time has come for equality to be anchored in distinct legislation,” Khenin said in reaction to the bill’s defeat, according to the news site Walla, “and not in all sorts of regulations hidden under the table.”

The issue of the definition of marriage and family, which has proven contentious in the UK, France, the US and other Western countries, has not been similarly volatile in Israel in recent years. However, the debate has heated up this month as bills dealing with same-sex benefits have reached the cabinet and Knesset plenum.

On Army Radio’s “Spending the Afternoon” news program, Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol tangled on Sunday with Jewish Home lawmaker Moti Yogev on the issue.

“The dictionary definition of family does not include the words ‘mother’ and ‘father,'” argued Kol.

“We were all created as men and women, and that is the natural way to continue the ‘existence of world,'” responded Yogev, using a traditional Jewish phrase referring to social continuity through reproduction.

The debate followed last week’s spat between coalition members Yesh Atid and Jewish Home over a bill that seeks to expand child tax credits for gay fathers. That bill, sponsored by Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol, passed the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, a crucial step that grants the bill the support of the government — and thus an almost guaranteed parliamentary majority.

However, the national-religious Jewish Home party enjoys a veto over matters of religion and state in the coalition agreement, and the party’s Knesset faction chair MK Ayelet Shaked managed to delay the bill’s continued progress after she convinced other coalition members 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 overturns the status quo in religion and state as it exists in Israel, and its purpose is to undermine the public debate on civil marriage, which should be undertaken with seriousness,” she wrote.

Marriage services for Jews in Israel are controlled by the state rabbinate. Israel has no civil marriage, so there is no existing framework that could be expanded to include gay couples.

Stuart Winer contributed to this report. 

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