Thousands of people took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Thursday evening to protest the government’s declared opposition earlier this week to same-sex couples adopting children in Israel, giving preference to heterosexual ones.
Some 10,000 attended the protest in central Tel Aviv, across from the government complex near the Azrieli towers, according to estimates by organizers. At least eight people were arrested for disturbances, police said, as demonstrators briefly blocked a road.
“We want equality, equality of rights, full equality and nothing less,” shouted the demonstrators.
Chen Arieli, chairwoman of The Aguda, Israel’s National LGBT Task Force, said in an address that the protest was held to “tell the prime minister, the ministers and Knesset members: we are not here just so you can tell the world what an enlightened country we are and so that 30,000 tourists have something to do in June,” in reference to the annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade which draws tens of thousands of tourists every year.
A number of other speakers denounced the discriminatory policy that opposes adoption by homosexual couples, which was revealed in the state’s formal response Sunday 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.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) July 20, 2017
Israeli pop star Harel Skaat, a gay man, who earlier this week called on young members of the LGBT community to refuse to serve in the army and to stop paying taxes in protest over the government’s stance, also attended the protest Thursday.
The state’s submission, filed jointly by the Welfare Ministry and the Justice Ministry, said they opposed allowing same-sex couples to adopt because it would place an “additional burden” on the child, a position that sparked outrage from the LGBT community and many senior politicians. (The state said however that it would for the first time allow common-law couples that have been together for at least three years to adopt.)
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 Sunday 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 on Monday declared that the state’s response was unfortunately worded, asked the court Tuesday for an extension to re-examine the issue, saying he wanted to seek more professional opinions.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) July 20, 2017
Amir Ohana, the first openly gay Likud lawmaker and a gay rights activist, announced Tuesday that he would not vote with the government coalition until the recommendation opposed to same-sex couples adopting is changed.
In a Facebook post Monday, Skaat lashed out at Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) and “the other cowardly politicians like you. You don’t deserve us. If only the millions of people who attended the last gay pride in Tel Aviv so that you could glorify yourselves before the enlightened world with your false acceptance will become an alternative force and toss you out already. There is a new generation here that won’t bear that hypocrisy much longer.”
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. While only three same-sex couples were successful, more than 1,000 straight couples have adopted in the same period.
Many same-sex couples adopt babies from other countries.
Zvi Fischler, the head of the Association of Israeli Psychiatrists, said Monday there was no evidence to support the government’s claim of an “additional burden” for the child and that the state’s position was “motivated by factors others than the well-being of the child.” Even in the most enlightened societies, he told Army Radio, “there can be sectors of the populace that are less accepted, and the child can deal with these things.”