Knesset shoots down opposition bill to enable adoption for same sex couples

Openly gay Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana bucks coalition position, votes for legislation sponsored by MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzano, who slams government as most LGBTQ-phobic ever

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana delivers a speech at the Knesset on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana delivers a speech at the Knesset on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

The Knesset rejected on Wednesday an opposition lawmaker’s bill that sought to officially enable same-sex couples and single people to adopt children.

The bill, proposed by Yesh Atid MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzano, was defeated in a preliminary reading by 45 votes against, and 37 in favor.

Current law, dating back to 1981, states that only a “man and his wife” are permitted to adopt children in Israel. However, the courts have the power to enable singles (including a single person in a same-sex relationship) to adopt in exceptional situations. According to the Aguda-The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, adoption agencies give priority to heterosexual couples so that even those singles who are able to apply are pushed down the list to receive a child to the point where their chances of success dwindle to almost nothing. In addition, the partner of a single person who adopts a child is not recognized as also being a parent.

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, an openly gay lawmaker for the coalition Likud party, broke ranks from the government’s stance of opposing the bill and voted in favor.

After the vote, Lahav-Hertzano, who is also gay, tweeted: “This is the most LGBTQ-phobic government in the history of the State of Israel.”

He attacked Likud lawmakers in particular.

“They say with contempt to each and every one of us — you are not worthy of being parents, just because of the inclination of our hearts,” he wrote. “A disgrace.”

Yesh Atid MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzano speaks during a Constitution Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on January 29, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The explanatory notes for the bill stated that its purpose was to “abolish the discrimination between those who apply to adopt and to determine that a man or a woman or two people will be eligible to adopt. This is with the understanding that the child’s best interests are not necessarily that he be adopted and raised by a married heterosexual couple only, but emphasis must be placed on optimal parenting skills.”

Ohana and his partner have two children who were born through surrogacy.

Several of Likud’s far-right and ultra-Orthodox partners have expressed homophobic positions. The openly anti-LGBTQ Noam party has promoted the concept of “a normal family.”

Noam’s sole MK, incoming deputy minister Avi Maoz, looked away as Ohama made his opening speech when he was approved by the Knesset as its speaker in January, as did members of the United Torah Judaism party.

The defeat of the adoption bill came on the very day that the first baby was born in Israel via surrogacy to a gay couple.

Daniel Findler and Omer Adler, from Herzliya, became the parents of a baby girl.

“We are very excited, we waited for this moment for a long time. There were more than a few hardships and bureaucracy along the way,” they said in a statement that also thanked those who had helped them.

Hila Peer, chairwoman of Aguda, said in a statement that the birth was “an important milestone in our campaign for equality. LGBTQ families are here and that reality cannot be changed.”

Surrogacy, in which an embryo is implanted in the womb of a woman who carries the fetus to pregnancy on behalf of someone else, only became permitted for same-sex couples under the previous government.

In the past, the process was only open to heterosexual married couples and to single women who have a genetic connection to the baby. In February 2020, the High Court of Justice struck down a controversial law that blocked single men and gay couples from using surrogacy to have children, and gave the Knesset a year to pass a new law.

Health Ministry regulations were finally updated to reflect the changes in January 2022.

The developments came as the government pushes ahead with a controversial drastic overhaul of the judiciary that will, among other changes, prevent the Supreme Court from blocking legislation even if it has been struck down. Critics say the changes will leave minority groups — including the LGBTQ community — defenseless against majority tyranny.

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