Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he would support an amendment to the proposed surrogacy bill extending eligibility to “single fathers,” thereby endorsing surrogacy for same-sex couples.
Voting on the legislation, which had been due to take place Tuesday, has been delayed as politicians work to clarify any possible changes.
Openly gay Likud MK Amir Ohana had previously proposed an amendment to include same-sex couples in the upcoming bill, but was voted down by the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee last week.
However, Netanyahu told Ohana at a Likud faction meeting on Monday that the fact that the bill grants “single mothers” and not “single fathers” the right to surrogacy is “just not fair and needs to be fixed.”
The announcement came after dozens of protesters blocked a busy Tel Aviv junction during Monday evening rush hour to protest against the law denying the right to same-sex couples.
Oz Parvin, chairman of the Gay Fathers organization, told Army Radio on Tuesday that he believed that if Netanyahu wanted the law to pass, he had support from within the coalition as well as the opposition. He added that if the legislation is not amended, the case would be taken to the Supreme Court.
The coalition makeup makes it difficult to pass laws advancing LGBT rights. Religious parties, which traditionally oppose such legislation, hold significant power within the coalition.
Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay tweeted a video Monday evening promising Netanyahu that the Zionist Union opposition faction will vote in favor of including same-sex couples in the bill. Some MKs from the Kulanu party have also reportedly signaled their support for the amendment.
A surrogacy agreement involves a woman who is willing to carry a pregnancy for another individual or couple, who will become the child’s legal parent or parents after birth.
In its current proposed state, the law will extend eligibility for the procedure to include single women, but denies same-sex couples the right to have children via a surrogate. Until now the right 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 will increase 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.
In an emotional exchange last week, Ohana told the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health committee of the struggles he faced in starting his own family.
“When my husband and I wanted to raise a family, we had to travel thousands of kilometers to another country. The twins were born prematurely and we were not by their sides,” Ohana said. “I had to turn the world upside down to find a Jew, who did not know me but lived nearby, to be by their sides. I am not defying the rabbinate and going against religion, just asking for a bit of humanity.”
MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) told the committee that the discrimination denying same-sex couples the same rights was “an insult.”
“I want to be a father and I cannot be a father. To do this, I have to go to a foreign country, pay $140,000 and hope it’s all right. My life is full, but there is always a part missing that accompanies me everywhere,” Shmuli said. “We are good enough to serve the country, but not to be parents. It’s an insult I cannot describe. It is a situation that is simply discriminatory, painful, and full of insults and dishonesty. This is wrong.”
The bill was passed by the committee 8–4.
The Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry last year announced its opposition to same-sex couples adopting children in Israel because it would place an “additional burden” on the child.
But following an outcry, 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.