Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn and Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli on Wednesday approved the draft of a bill that will change a decades-old law permitting adoption only for heterosexual couples and allow same-sex couples to be equally eligible.
The bill calls to remove the phrase “a man and woman together” that had been in adoption laws since 1960 and which had largely kept gay couples and single parents from adopting.
It will also see the establishment of a registry of those seeking to adopt or to obtain a foster care license, and lay down equal requirements for those who want to be added to the registry.
In addition, a system of criteria will be established for finding suitable parents for each child, including any considerations that need to be taken into account, with the child’s best interest as the overriding factor.
“We are taking another step towards equality,” Nissenkorn said according to a Channel 12 news report.
The new law, he said “will enshrine the simple natural fact that the best interests of the child do not depend on the classification of relationship but on objective and equity competency conditions.”
Nissenkorn will present the bill to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation from where it will begin its journey towards parliament for approval into law. However, the coalition make-up makes it difficult to pass laws advancing LGBT rights. Religious parties, which traditionally oppose such legislation, hold significant power within the coalition.
Shmuli tweeted that it is “an historic correction of serious discrimination that many good Israelis have been waiting many years for.”
“As the welfare minister, I know very well how many children we rescued from a situation of danger and abandonment who are waiting for a warm loving family. Thanks to this change, it will be possible to meet LGBT couples who so yearn to be parents and have so much love to give.”
“I wish for the community, and myself, that we will merit to adopt as many children as possible who need it,” wrote Shmuli who is gay. “Only one thing should, and will, determine adoption: the suitability of the parents to provide the child’s needs, and nothing else.”
Same-sex couples can be approved for adoption under Israeli law, but in practice only a handful of such couples have adopted children in the past decade. As a recourse, some same-sex couples adopt babies from other countries.
According to Channel 12 for years the Welfare Ministry and its Child Welfare Service have had a policy of dividing prospective adoptive parents into two lists. The first, for regular, heterosexual couples, who would be offered newborn and infant children up to the age of three.
The second list, comprised of older heterosexual couples and single parents, would only be offered older children and those with special needs. Gay couples were also added to the second list, according to the report.
In 2008, following protests by the gay community, the attorney general advised allowing gay couples to adopt children in Israel. However, the law was never changed by the Knesset despite various efforts by lawmakers along the way.
In 2017, the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry, under a different minister, announced its opposition to same-sex couples adopting children in Israel because it would place an “additional burden” on the child.
But following a storm of protest, with thousands of Israelis taking to the streets of Tel Aviv to protest what they said was a discriminatory policy, the ministry reversed the decision less than a month later and said it was the role of the Knesset to make a final determination on the issue through legislation.
There has been a similar uphill struggle by the LGBT community for equal rights to surrogacy in Israel, and also for the right to be married.