Israel will appeal a court ruling ordering it to officially register two women who are Israeli citizens living abroad as the mothers of their children.
The state claims that residency is a condition for granting parenthood status even though it registers heterosexual couples as parents without any residency condition.
The Petah Tikva Family Court ruled in September in the case of Efrat and Adi Kronkop-Ben Nun whose request for parenthood status for their children, Thomas and Alice, was opposed by the state. Because Adi and Efrat are presently residents of Austria without a fixed date for returning to Israel, there is no possibility of granting them both parenthood status, the state claimed.
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit asked the court at the beginning of the week to delay the implementation of its ruling until the appeal is decided.
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The women criticized Mendelblit’s announcement. “We are sad that our country is fighting and abandoning us in such a way and is appealing such a justified and progressive court decision after 10 months of hearings in which all the essential facts, documents, data and opinions were presented,” Efrat and Adi said.
“This is, once again, a waste of resources whose only outcome is harming our family. We are citizens of the country who served in the army, worked, paid taxes, and our only sin is choosing to live our lives together,” said the women. “We hope the government will come to its senses and realize that it is fighting windmills. The future is already here, as the court has accepted for years. It feels like an inexplicable retribution,” they added.
Attorney Daniela Yaakobi, who represented the women, said: “Regrettably, the State of Israel has chosen to ignore the ruling and to keep discriminating against citizens, men and women, who are part of the LGBT community. Every citizen in Israel should be concerned, also because the state is continuing to conduct hundreds of fruitless legal proceedings, which waste public money and valuable judicial time, while causing damage to minors and their parents,” said Yaakobi.
When heterosexual parents who are Israeli citizens living abroad have a baby, there is no need for a legal proceeding to register the children, who can be registered in the Israeli consulate in that country. But the state opposes granting parenthood status to lesbians living abroad. The Family Court ruled that this situation is discriminatory.
Judge Yocheved Greenwald Rand wrote in her ruling: “A failure to grant the requested parenthood status would mean they have inferior status compared to heterosexual couples, who have the right to register fatherhood based on a declaration alone."
The judge added: “It should be clarified that the difference between LGBT families and heterosexual families is not a ‘relevant difference’ that justifies different procedures […] The social interest and public policy mandate enabling LGBT families to conduct their lives within an ordinary family framework.”
Greenwald Rand also said that the state’s demand for residency is "liable to empty Israeli citizenship and all the rights stemming from it of meaning, notably the right to parenthood.” The judge also said that “preventing the granting of parenthood status due to a demand of residency is inconsistent with the right of access to a court, which is a basic constitutional right granted to every Israeli citizen. Israelis have a right to be granted all rights applying to them as citizens, regardless of their residency.”
The judge concluded: “The decision makers would do well to act when they come to examine a request like this one … not only according to the law, but also from an approach that goes beyond the letter of the law, applying principles of kindness and peace.”
Adi and Efrat married in 2016 in a civil ceremony, and decided to have children through a sperm donor. Efrat is the children’s biological mother, and if Adi is not registered as the second mother, she won’t be able to carry out basic functions needed for the children’s welfare. Furthermore, Austria does not grant parenthood status to foreign nationals, saying the matter is dependent on Israeli law. Thus, Adi can’t be registered as the second mother in Austria without the consent of Israeli authorities.
Attorney Daniela Yaakobi, who represented the women, called the Israeli decision discriminatory, saying residency had no relevance to the issue of the women’s parenthood, just as it didn’t to heterosexual parents of a minor who is an Israeli citizen born abroad.