Israeli Court Recognizes Interfaith Lesbian Couple as Mothers of Each Other's Children

Precedent-setting ruling bypasses the adoption law requirement that the adoptive parent and the child must be of the same faith.

For the first time in Israel, a court has issued a ruling recognizing an interfaith lesbian couple as the mothers of each other’s children, Haaretz has learned. The ruling came at the request of the two women years after their daughters were born.

They were unable to adopt each other’s children because the law requires that the adoptive parent and the child be of the same religion, which, in this instance, was not the case.

When that effort failed, the women, one of whom is Jewish and the other Christian, sought a court ruling declaring them parents of their partner’s children. The way was paved for such a ruling earlier this year, when, in a precedent-setting opinion, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein declared that the state was withdrawing its opposition to recognizing women in same-sex relationships as the parents of one another’s biological children without requiring a formal adoption.

In March this year, a Tel Aviv family court granted the first order of recognition of parenthood without requiring a welfare services investigation of the two women in the relationship, thereby eliminating a bureaucratic hurdle.

Attorney General Weinstein’s declaration required that couples submit their request for an order of parenthood no later than 90 days after the birth of the child. In the current case, however, the request was submitted more than five years after the birth of the older daughter and more than two years after the birth of the younger daughter, following the failure of efforts to obtain orders of adoption due to the different religions of the two women.

Weinstein examined the women’s request and issued an opinion approving the granting of recognition of parenthood in the couple’s case. The order was issued on Wednesday by Tel Aviv family court judge Yehoram Shaked.

“We have managed to create a result in which there is no need to change the religion of the child or one of the parents to create the parenthood, and that is significant, particularly in a country like ours in which the process of conversion is not a simple thing,” said Daniela Yaakobi, the lawyer who represented the couple.

“We’ve been living together in Tel Aviv for 15 years,” the Christian mother said yesterday. “I come from Be’er Sheva originally and my family has been in Israel for generations. Six years ago we decided we want children. I got pregnant first and when we started the adoption procedure we realized the law doesn’t allow it because I’m Christian. It made us very angry and upset but we looked for creative solutions and it really worked. Today we’re happier than ever and hope other couples don’t give up.”

“This has been very frustrating, because I have two daughters but one isn’t recognized in Israel,” her partner said. “For years we couldn’t do anything about it, the clause in the law that doesn’t enable you to adopt a child who isn’t of your religion is absurd.”

“We were in such despair, we thought of registering the girls as having no religion so that we could adopt them. We even thought of converting to Judaism or becoming Christian. From our point of view, the girls will decide when they grow up what religion to have, it has become nothing but an obstacle,” she said.