Gay Rights Struggle Resumes as Livni Pushes Same-sex Inheritance Bill

Similar bill failed in 2011, and Habayit Hayehudi expected to oppose new one.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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A gay couple at the 2013 Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade
A gay couple at the 2013 Jerusalem Gay Pride ParadeCredit: Olivier Fitoussi
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The struggle for the rights of same-sex couples is expected to resume when the Knesset reconvenes for its summer session on May 11, with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni planning to promote an amendment to the Inheritance Law that would allow same-sex partners to be each others’ heirs.

“Love is love, and a family is a family, and it’s inconceivable that the law allows for institutional discrimination,” said Livni.

The law now states that inheritance rules apply to married couples, as well as to “a man and a woman who conduct family life in a joint household.” Livni said she wants to change the wording of the law so that it would apply to “partners who conduct family life in a joint household,” a more general wording that would include same-sex couples.

“The Inheritance Law was legislated in 1965, but Israeli society has progressed and is much more inclusive,” said Livni. “Families in 2014 are much more varied than they were in the 1960s, making it only proper that the relevant laws be changed accordingly.”

Livni’s ministry colleagues noted that the courts have in any case been recognizing the rights of same-sex couples to inherit each other, and the move is aimed at merely ratifying these developments with legislation. The amendment will be part of a broad codex aimed at refreshing the body of laws dealing with financial matters.

A similar bill, submitted to the Knesset in 2011, never advanced, and it’s doubtful whether Livni will be able to get coalition backing for the bill. Over the past several months, the Habayit Hayehudi party has successfully buried a series of bills that sought to grant formal recognition to same-sex couples and to advance the gay community in Israel.

Just last month, Housing Minister Uri Ariel managed to block a bill that would have allowed single people and same-sex couples to use surrogate mothers in Israel, by appealing a decision by the cabinet to advance it. His reasoning was that the bill posed an “ethical and moral question” about how “a family in the State of Israel is meant to look.”

Moreover, his party and Yisrael Beiteinu made it clear in recent months that they would not permit the advancement of bills proposed by Yesh Atid and Hatnuah to allow civil unions in Israel if the legislation would include recognition of same-sex couples.

At the same time, the coalition did promote bills that equated the status of the children of same-sex couples with those of heterosexual couples, and bills to prevent discrimination due to sexual orientation.

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