Despite Promise to Top Court, Israel Still Discriminates Against Gay Couples Wanting to Adopt

The state promised the High Court of Justice it would present a bill for equal adoption rights last year, but the justice minister blocked it

Shahar Globerman (L) and Shay Gortler with their daughter, Tanya, in Tel Aviv in June, 2019.
David Bachar

The High Court of Justice gave the government until mid-2018 to fix the law treating same-sex couples looking to adopt differently from heterosexual couples, but the Social Services ministry continues to operate by the discriminatory legislation.

Currently, gay couples can only adopt children with special needs or those over two years old.

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The Justice and Social Services ministries drafted a bill that would end the discrimination, but it has been blocked, with some of those involved in drafting the bill alleging that this was for political reasons.

Social Services Minister Haim Katz said he approved the proposed bill and supports it. However, then-Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked blocked it on the grounds that it was problematic and needed changes.

In September 2017 the government told the High Court that it would reverse its position to have equality under the law for both gay and straight couples wishing to adopt. The government promised the High Court that the new legislation would not include the clause stating, “there is no adoption except by a man and his wife together.”

A number of professional staff involved in writing the proposed law said they were not given any explanation of why the draft has not been advanced, and said it was blocked for political reasons. “If there were a few professional reservations, they were solvable. They were not core issues,” said one official. “It was clear that someone at the top did not want it to advance. If a minister wants to promote a bill, it does not take almost two years to prepare it.”

The Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform movement, one of the original petitioners in the case, is now considering going back to court. On Wednesday, the Justice Ministry said that while it was in the process of formulating the final version of the draft bill, the Knesset voted to call new elections and as a result the publication of the new bill has been delayed.

Shaked declined a number of times to directly answer questions as to whether she supports equal rights for same-sex couples who want to adopt. On Wednesday her office said: “As opposed to what was stated in the article, the draft law was filled with problems. As justice minister, Shaked instructed to correct what needed to be corrected... As a rule, Shaked believes in granting equal rights to every citizen.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Shaked on Sunday and on Wednesday appointed lawmaker Amir Ohana of Likud, who is gay.

The Justice Ministry said the new minister would be responsible for the new version of the bill. Katz’s office said it was necessary to amend the bill and the ministry has concluded its professional responsibilities on the matter – and that the Justice Ministry is now responsible for the law and questions should be directed there. “Changing the adoption law is a necessary step, which has received full support from me,” Katz said.

'Return to the streets'

Shay Gortler and Shahar Globerman have been on the Social Services Ministry’s waiting list for adoption since August 2015. Both men are both 35, have been married for six years and live in Tel Aviv. In recent years they had been living in the United States, where they adopted their daughter, Tanya, when she was an infant. At the same time, they started the adoption process in Israel. When they returned to Israel they contacted the ministry to continue the process, but were told that as long as the law has not changed, then the government policy has not changed, either.

Along with other same-sex couples, they were sent to a Children’s Welfare Service seminar intended for couples adopting children with special needs or over two years old. A social worker told them that they were on the waiting list for special needs children or those over two years old and not the regular waiting list, said Gortler. “In the United States we are allowed to adopt even though we are not citizens, and in the country where we are citizens, they won’t let us adopt like everyone else,” he added.

Gortler and Globerman will participate in the gay pride parade in Jerusalem on Thursday. “We must once again return to the streets. What made the change and brought about the declaration that the policy would be changed was not the High Court of Justice,” said Gurtler. “It was the fact that LGBT people went out into the streets and blocked roads.”