Israel Recognized Lesbian Couples as Mothers. Now It Says It Was a Mistake

Lesbian mothers were surprised to discover that the state deleted the non-biological parent from the document

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Irit and Einat Zvieli-Efrat with their children.
Irit and Einat Zvieli-Efrat with their children.
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

Israel's Interior Ministry has been making retroactive changes to birth certificates issued to children born to lesbian couples, deleting the name of the non-biological mother. This was discovered when couples who obtained new copies of birth certificates found that the documents were different from those already in their possession.

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The documents that included two mothers were issued to several dozen children in 2006-2007, after the courts began issuing adoption orders that recognized non-biological parents in LGBT families. Sources say that at issue are around 30 birth certificates. The state claims that the original certificates were issued in error.

A birth certificate, before and after the changes

In response to a parliamentary query on the matter submitted by four female MKs from different parties, deputy Knesset legal adviser Raz Nizri said, “The birth certificates in question were produced manually for a short period of time, contrary to the general policy of the Population Authority and not in accordance with the Population Registry regulations.”

Aside from the symbolic value of the birth certificate, which embodies recognition of LGBT couples who plan and raise children together, the birth certificate also is a vital document for immigration and visa applications.

Irit and Einat Zvieli-Efrat, lesbians who have lived together 15 years, traveled with their four children in East Asia. When they arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal, they sought to obtain a visa to India for their children. The couple explained to the Indian officials that they are two mothers raising their children together -- each of them having given birth to two – and the clerks asked for the children’s birth certificates.

A birth certificate, before and after the changes.

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Irit and Einat went to the Israeli Embassy in Kathmandu to receive copies of the birth certificates. A week and a half later, when they came to collect the documents, they discovered that the document copies sent to them were different from the birth certificates they had at home; only the biological mother appeared on the copies, while the nonbiological mother had been deleted.

“We were in shock,” said Irit. “In addition to the aggravation, there was also a lot of unpleasantness. The Indian Embassy accused us of providing false information, because we claimed that the children had two mothers and that the State of Israel recognizes us, and when we came with birth certificates, only one mother appeared. In the end, we obtained visas as single mothers. It’s a bad situation because it’s just not our reality.”

Tal and Avital Yaros-Hakak were taken aback, too, to find that the birth certificates they had gotten in 2006, which included both mothers, had been changed.

“After we received the adoption orders in 2006, we went to the Interior Ministry, not everything was ready, and they had technical difficulties making changes to the form. They gave us the appendix to the identity card where the children were registered with the non-biological mothers.

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We got the rest of the documents, including the birth certificate with both mothers, only afterward,” said Tal. “In 2014 we applied for a European passport and we needed one of the kids’ birth certificates in English. When we applied for the birth certificate in English, we received it with one mother.”

The Yaros-Hakak family has three different versions of birth certificates from different times, even though there has been no change to their family or legal status.

Haaretz has learned that the issuance of certificates with two mothers was stopped after the former head of the archives, George Klein, who signed the documents with two mothers, retired in 2007 and was replaced by Meir Amsalem. Amsalem is the only official authorized to register nonbiological parents in accordance with adoption and parenting orders, and there have been numerous complaints filed against him by LGBT parents regarding unreasonable delays in arranging registration as required by court orders.

One of the repeated arguments against issuing birth certificates with two mothers or two fathers is that the birth certificates are meant to reflect the biological state at birth. But in the case of a heterosexual couple who use a sperm donation because the man has fertility problems, no one questions the wording of the birth certificate that lists him as the father, even though he and his offspring have no genetic connection.

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“All the resources and information are in the state’s hands and it changes its version of things in accordance with the information we are working hard to expose and present,” said attorney Daniela Yaakobi, who represents a number of parents who petitioned the High Court of Justice on the matter. “The state’s contention that the documents with the two mothers were mistakenly issued was only raised because we petitioned the High Court of Justice. If there was a mistake, then how is it that for 12 years none of the women was told that she was in possession of an erroneous birth certificate?”

The Interior Ministry said, “Birth certificates are issued in accordance with the Population Registry regulations. Birth certificates are not amended after adoption orders and court-issued parenting orders (whether we are talking about heterosexual couples or same-sex couples). Mr. Amsalem issues birth certifications in accordance with the regulations and the policy of the [Population] Authority as regards registration of birth certificates. Birth certificates are not meant to reflect family status but biological parentage.

“However, the registration in the Population Registry, the identity cards and the registration extracts reflect the updated registration, which also includes the parentage of two women or two men, in accordance with the adoption orders or the parenting orders issued by the courts.”

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