Israel’s LGBT community has called a nationwide strike in protest of a bill passed by the Knesset that loosened surrogacy regulations but did not include a clause enabling gay couples to use a surrogate in order to have a child.
The community’s umbrella group, The Agudah, announced the strike in a post to its Facebook page Wednesday, shortly after parliament voted on the surrogacy bill, which extends eligibility to women in a same-sex relationship, but not men. The strike was called for Sunday and the organization urged all sympathizers to join the action.
“For the first time ever, the gay community will go on a national strike,” the Agudah wrote. “On that day workers from the community, and likewise our supporters and partners, will not be present at work and will close their businesses to protest the blatant discrimination against the LGBT community and the deterioration that has begun recently due to the government’s efforts to roll back back our campaign.”
There were street protests in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv against the bill, with much criticism being directed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who voted against the legislation two days after publicly saying he supported the right of single men to use a surrogate — which would effectively allow it for gay couples.
On Wednesday, the local divisions of Microsoft and Apple joined various companies in declaring measures in support of gay surrogacy.
Microsoft Israel R&D Center announced on its official Facebook page that it will pay NIS 60,000 ($16,500) to any employee interested in starting a family through surrogacy. Surrogacy in Israel could run to around NIS 200,000.
“The current text of the surrogacy law excludes the LGBT community and denies them the basic human right to establish a family,” the company wrote. “This is a regrettable and unequal law. Starting today, every one of our workers who decides to set up a family using surrogacy will receive NIS 60,000 irrespective of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or marital status. Everyone!”
iStore, an official retailer of Apple in Israel, said its shops in Tel Aviv, Beersheba, and Ra’anana will all join the strike for one hour to show identification.
“We are striking because of the discriminatory treatment by the authorities” on various matters relating to the LGBT community, including surrogacy and adoption, iStore CEO Saar Haim Zaguri wrote on his Facebook page.
Mellanox Technologies also said it will offer NIS 60,000 as well as a month of parental leave to employees who use surrogacy and would allow workers to participate in the LGBT community strike.
“We regret the current text of the surrogacy law, which unfairly excludes the LGBT community, and hope that the day will not be long in coming in which Israeli law also enables true equality for the basic right to parenthood,” the company said in a statement.
Advertising companies McCann, Gitam, Twisted, Teenk, and Awesome, all said they were joining the strike.
Procter & Gamble’s local office announced it would allow workers to take part in the strike without having to take a vacation day, Hadashot reported.
Until now the right to surrogacy has only been extended to married, heterosexual couples. 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.