Following massive protests over the exclusion of gay couples from recently passed surrogacy law, the heads of the LGBT community on Wednesday presented a list of demands for “equality and freedom,” threatening continued demonstrations if they are not met.
At a press conference in Tel Aviv the community presented a document, endorsed by 14 LGBT organizations, listing what it expects from the government, stressing they would accept nothing less than “full equality” and an “end to discrimination.”
The demands were divided into six categories — preventing violence against the LGBT community, full recognition of gay families, including equality in surrogacy, providing appropriate social welfare to LGBT people, equality in health care, and educating the general population for tolerance and acceptance of the LGBT community and allocating at least NIS 50 million ($13.75) for the community.
Chen Arieli, head of the Association for LGBT, told Hadashot news that if the demands were not met, “we will continue the struggle, as we have been doing even before the big protest. The protest proved that we have strength in the field.”
“We need to take a position of strength and change the balance of power,” she added.
On Sunday night tens of thousands of Israelis packed into Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to protest the exclusion of gay couples from the surrogacy law, which has drawn accusations of LGBT discrimination in the Jewish state.
Gay rights advocates and their supporters observed an unprecedented one-day strike earlier on Sunday, and large demonstrations were held in major cities across Israel, where hundreds were seen waving rainbow flags, blocking traffic and shouting “shame.”
LGBT groups also launched a protest tent outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.
Ofer Erez, CEO of the Jerusalem Open House, said the protest would continue until the Jerusalem gay pride parade scheduled for August 2.
Many of the protesters on Sunday focused their anger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who last week pledged to pass legislation supporting surrogacy for gay fathers, but then voted against it, reportedly under pressure from ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.
The protests have generated widespread support. Dozens of companies and local branches of multinationals based in Israel announced their support for the day of protest and their willingness to allow employees to participate in it. Some said they would be implementing new policies to help workers become parents via a surrogate, regardless of sexual orientation.
“It is a symbolic measure, but one that shows real support,” Julien Bahloul, spokesman for the Association of Gay Fathers in Israel, told AFP on Sunday.
Sunday’s protests were announced last Wednesday by Agudah — Israel’s umbrella organization for the LGBTQ community — shortly after the Knesset voted on a surrogacy bill which extended eligibility to single women, but not to men, effectively preventing homosexual couples from having a child via a surrogate.
Amid mounting criticism, Netanyahu later denied that he changed his position on surrogate parenthood for same-sex couples, saying he voted against the measure to ensure the bill would pass. He vowed to support a separate bill legalizing surrogacy for gay couples at a later Knesset session.
Naomi Lanzkron and AFP contributed to this report.