Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz on Tuesday asked the High Court of Justice for an extension to reexamine the issue of same-sex couples adopting children, as a Likud lawmaker said he will no longer vote with the coalition until the welfare and justice ministries rescind their recommendation against allowing gay couples to adopt under Israeli law.
The opinion, filed jointly by the Labor Ministry and the Justice Ministry, said they opposed allowing same-sex couples to adopt because it would place an “additional burden” on the child, sparking outrage from the LGBT community and many senior politicians.
The government had given its response to a petition claiming that same-sex couples are discriminated against in the adoption process even though by law, they are allowed to adopt.
But Katz took a step back on Tuesday, writing to the court that he wanted more time for professional entities to look at matter.
“They will reexamine the subject and will take into account all of the relevant considerations,” he wrote but noted that the reform in the adoption service is “in order to make it more efficient for all of the citizens that want to adopt in Israel.”
Katz’s request came as Amir Ohana, the first openly gay Likud MK and a well-known gay rights activist, said that he would not vote in favor of any coalition legislation until the legal opinion was altered “fundamentally.”
“I hereby declare that until the decision is not changed fundamentally (and not semantically), and the issue of adoption will be weighed on a case-by-case basis and egalitarian manner that doesn’t discriminate categorically against LGBT parents, I will not vote with the coalition,” he wrote on Facebook.
Around 100 children are adopted each year in Israel, with more than half of the children coming from abroad.
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, Haaretz reported. While only three same-sex couples were successful, more than 1,000 straight couples have adopted in the same period.
The opinion submitted by the state on Sunday said that “the professional opinion of the Child Welfare Services supports preserving the existing situation” that the adopting couple be a man and a woman, the government wrote to the court.
This “takes into account the reality of Israeli society and the difficulty it may entail with regard to the child who is being adopted.” The state state children adopted by same-sex parents would face an “additional burden.”
Several lawmakers condemned the government’s decision.
Meretz’s Michal Rozin, who heads the Knesset’s LGBT lobby, Yael German of Yesh Atid, Merav Michaeli of the Zionist Union and Kulanu’s Merav Ben Ari said in a statement that the decision was homophobic and showed the government’s cynicism toward the homosexual community.
Amid a burgeoning furor Monday, Katz attempted to distance himself from the initial response. The statement submitted to the High Court on Sunday had been “poorly worded and should not have been stated as such,” his ministry said on his behalf Monday. “The minister has no intention of preventing or denying anyone the ability to adopt from one group or another,” his spokesman claimed.
The Welfare Ministry spokesperson Sharona Mann said it is recommending a “complete overhaul of the outdated law” on adoptions. “We want a full reform in the law — which is not connected to LGBT couples or any other group of couples,” she said. “It’s not connected to same-sex parents — it’s much bigger than that. We don’t want any couple in Israel to wait seven years to adopt…. Only after the reform is implemented should lawmakers be asked to change the law in favor of additional groups,” she added.