In Complete Reversal, Israel Says It No Longer Opposes Same-sex Adoption

Ministry says it accepts recommendations to allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt, but the Knesset will have to amend existing legislation

A child at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, July 2016.
A child at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, July 2016. Michal Fattal

The Israeli government reversed its position on adoption by same-sex couples on Tuesday, telling the State Attorney's Office that it has no objection to the practice.

The Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry informed the state attorney that it was backing down from its previous position that it would not lift discriminatory procedures, although the Knesset would have to legislate on the issue, Channel 2 news reported.

As first reported in Haaretz, the ministry, along with the Justice Ministry, had previously said it opposed adoption by same-sex couples.

According to the ministry’s new position, the criteria for adoption will address the potential parents’ suitability for a given child, regardless of sexual orientation. The state's position was filed in response to a petition to the High Court filed by the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers, together with the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform movement, against the Social Affairs Ministry and the attorney general.

“In light of the public opposition to the state’s position, Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Haim Katz demanded a re-examination of the position,” the ministry said in a statement to the state attorney, who represents the State of Israel in court.

Contrary to the public’s perception, the ministry said, its original position made no mention of gay and lesbian couples’ parenting abilities “and certainly no negative statement was expressed.” The document also noted that research on same-sex parenting, in addition to the cumulative experience of the adoption agencies as well as hundreds of recommendations to the court to approve adoption by the partner of the child’s biological parent “all indicate beneficial parenting.”

The ministry said that both Katz and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked had decided to accept the recommendation of the committee tasked with examining the issue and to impose only general guidelines for matching children with prospective adoptive parents, rather than impose threshold conditions.

However, the state said that the Knesset would have to amend existing legislation on the issue because the current wording of the law describes adoptive parents as “a man and his wife.” “The current petition seeks to achieve this goal by interpretation. But the current law does not permit this, and thus a modification is required. Under these circumstances and considering this issue has such major implications for Israeli society, it seems that the proper place to continue this discussion is in the legislature,” the ministry’s response stated.