The High Court's decision to recognize adoptions of same-sex couples is a "triumph" for the gay community, but the recent rise of homophobia, coupled with a lack of total acceptance for diversity among even progressive Israelis, remains a troubling phenomenon here, Ruti Berner-Kadish, a lesbian woman who successfully petitioned the High Court to recognize her and her partner as mother of their children, said this week.
"This ruling, among other rulings, is a stepping stone in accepting - not just tolerating - different constellations of families," Berner-Kadish, who together with her partner, Nicole Berner-Kadish, demanded the Ministry of Interior register them as dual mothers of their children, said in a telephone interview. Last week, a panel of nine High Court Judges refused to reverse a decision it made seven years ago that would force Interior Ministry officials to register both Ruti and Nicole Berner-Kadish.
The women, who met in Israel, are both dual U.S.-Israeli citizens. Their eldest child, Mattan, who is now 12, is Ruti's biological son, but upon his birth, Nicole adopted him in California. After the three returned to Israel, they asked the Interior Ministry to recognize the foreign adoption, but the Ministry refused.
In 2000, the High Court ordered the Ministry to register Nicole as Mattan's mother, but the Ministry submitted a petition against the ruling and requested a further hearing before an expanded panel of the High Court. Last week's ruling was an upholding of the original decision and essentially forces the Ministry to recognize same-sex adoptions performed abroad.
The women were represented by Dan Yakir, a lawyer for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
"It's certainly a personal victory, but it's also part of a community-wide victory that the court has recognized different constellations of parents," Berner-Kadish, who now lives in Maryland, said. "It doesn't matter how people came to be a family - whether through birth or adoption. What's important is that the unit functions as a family in terms of support, love and care."
She said the decision, though important on a practical level, was also a symbolic milestone for the family, which has since expanded to also include Naveh, 9, and Segev, 4.
"Being Israeli is important to us and it's a significant part of our identity. As such, being recognized as a family and as parents of our three children was important to us. Just like I am the parent of three kids here, I want to be recognized as the parent of three kids in Israel."
She said, though, that Israelis have a long way to go in terms of accepting diversity.
"In Israel, even in presumably progressive circles, at the end of the day, we're still seen to have horns," she said. "In the mainstream [Israeli] secular culture, there is not a complete acceptance of LGBT couples and families."
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