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Lawmaker suspended from committee for boycott over gay adoption

Openly gay Likud MK Amir Ohana punished for skipping key Knesset votes in protest at government’s discriminatory policy

Likud Knesset Member Amir Ohana leads a House committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 26, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud Knesset Member Amir Ohana leads a House committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 26, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud’s first openly gay lawmaker was suspended from a powerful Knesset committee on Wednesday after he refused to vote with the coalition in protest of the government’s declared opposition earlier this week to same-sex couples adopting children in Israel, giving preference to heterosexual ones.

Amir Ohana, a freshman MK and a gay rights activist, was temporarily removed from the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee after skipping crucial Knesset votes by coalition whip David Bitan, a fellow member of the Likud party.

“In light of the fact that you boycotted meetings of the Knesset plenum and missed a long list of votes on important legislation… I decided to suspend you from the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for four months,” Coalition Chairman David Bitan wrote to Ohana.

Ohana announced a week ago that he would not vote with the government coalition until the recommendation opposing adoption by same-sex couples is changed.

“I hereby declare that until the decision is not changed fundamentally (and not semantically), and the issue of adoption will be weighed on a case-by-case basis and egalitarian manner that doesn’t discriminate categorically against LGBT parents, I will not vote with the coalition,” he wrote on Facebook.

Ohana and his partner, Alon Hadad, have a son and a daughter together who were born using a surrogate mother in 2015.

The policy that opposes adoption by homosexual couples was revealed in the state’s formal response on July 16 to a petition filed with the High Court of Justice by the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers and the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement, against the Welfare Ministry and the attorney general.

The state’s decision not to change its stance on same-sex couples “takes into account the reality of Israeli society and the difficulty it may entail with regard to the child being adopted,” the government said on July 16 in its response, citing Child Welfare Services.

The High Court of Justice gave the government two months to reconsider after Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz, having declared that the state’s response was unfortunately worded, asked the court for an extension to re-examine the issue, saying he wanted to seek more professional opinions.

Around 100 children are adopted each year in Israel, with more than half of the children coming from abroad.

Since 2008, when single-sex couples and couples who have common-law marriages became legally able to adopt within Israel, 550 such couples have submitted petitions to adopt, Haaretz reported. While only three same-sex couples were successful, more than 1,000 straight couples have adopted in the same period.

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