Israel Signs Pact to Bar Gay Couples From Adopting Russian Babies

Agreement formalizes de facto arrangement in force for years ■ Russian law prohibits adoption by same-sex couples or anyone from countries that allow gay marriage

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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Members of Israel's LGBTQ community protest law on surrogacy rights that excludes gay men, Tel Aviv, Israel, January 31, 2018.
Members of Israel's LGBTQ community protest law on surrogacy rights that excludes gay men, Tel Aviv, Israel, January 31, 2018. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

Israel signed an agreement with Russia on Wednesday that precludes LGBTQ parents from adopting Russian children. While the agreement does not spell this out, it notes that adoptions will be done in line with the laws of both countries. Since in Russia LGBT parents are barred from adopting children, this will now apply to Israelis seeking to adopt in Russia.

Before the signing of this agreement, Russia was the only country allowing Israelis to adopt children, with the procedure being managed by the Ministry of Social Affairs. In practice, members of the LGBTQ community could not adopt Russian children even before this was formalized. Sources familiar with these issues told Haaretz that in the past, Israel rejected a demand by Russia that this prohibition be anchored in a formal document. This would have implied that if the law in Russia changed, LGBTQ parents from Israel could have started adopting in Russia. The new agreement was announced on Israel's Channel 12 News.

Hijacking the Holocaust for Putin, politics and power

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The signing of the agreement between the two countries after 10 years of negotiations is expected to make it easier and faster for straight couples in Israel to adopt in Russia. It will probably also increase the number of adoptions, according to knowledgeable sources. The new agreement was signed by the Minister for Environmental Protection and Jerusalem Affairs, Zeev Elkin, who also heads an inter-governmental Israel-Russia committee, and senior Russian officials, including several deputy ministers – for foreign affairs, economy, education, labor and welfare – and the deputy heads of Russia’s pension fund and customs. The signature took place on the eve of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s arrival in Israel on Thursday for the World Holocaust Forum.

In 2017, Haaretz reported that Israel made a commitment to Russia not to allow same-sex couples to adopt Russian children. State representatives promised to ensure that the Russian family model, which excludes same-sex parents, would be abided by after the adopted children reached Israel. At the request of non-profit groups that regulate overseas adoptions, representatives of the ministries of justice and social affairs signed documents that were presented to Russian courts, committing to obey Russian laws that prohibit same-sex couples from adopting.

Oz Parvin, chairman of the group Gay Fathers, said in response to the signing: “We’re disappointed by and protest the state’s decision to sign this discriminatory adoption agreement with Russia, knowing that it would deepen the inequality of LGBT community rights in Israel. It’s inconceivable that in 2020 we are not able to benefit from the option of adoption, in addition to the discrimination we face in the surrogacy law, as well as in the overall attitude of the state to parents in the LBGT community. It’s high time that the rights to parenthood apply equally to all Israelis, from all groups and sectors.”

In February 2014, then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed an ordinance prohibiting homosexual and lesbian couples, or single people from countries allowing same-sex marriage, from adopting Russian children. The ordinance was meant to prevent people in a same-sex relationship from posing as single to adopt a child. This precluded citizens of France, Canada and Spain from adopting Russian children. Citizens of the United States, in which many states allow same-sex marriage, had been excluded a year earlier.

Following the ratification of this ordinance, the Russian Foreign Ministry published a list of countries that allow same-sex marriage, erroneously including Israel in that list. After Israel clarified to Russia that such marriages were prohibited here, it was taken off the list. In recent years, the two countries have exchanged documents and drafts of an agreement, and representatives of several ministries met with Russian officials. The latter wished to ensure that only heterosexual couples adopted Russian children, and Israeli officials promised to fulfill that request.

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