Israeli Minister Asks That His Ministry Reexamine Policy on Adoption by Same-sex Couples

Meanwhile, ministry says that 'we believe that Israeli society still sees such families as abnormal and still doesn’t fully accept them'

The Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem in 2016.
Michal Fattal

Social Services Minister Haim Katz turned to the High Court on Tuesday asking for an extension of time for the state to respond to the petition filed against his ministry claiming discrimination of same-sex couples in adopting children.

According to Katz, the request was made so that professionals could reexamine the issue of adoption by same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, Social Services Ministry responsible for its policy on child adoption explained on Monday the state's position that same-sex couples won't be able to adopt children in the same procedure as heterosexual couples. "There isn’t enough legitimacy in Israel for LGBT families. We have no objection," they said.

"There isn’t enough legitimacy in Israel for LGBT families. We have no objection." That's how professionals in the Social Services Ministry responsible for its policy on child adoption explained on Monday the state's position that same-sex couples won't be able to adopt children in the same procedure as heterosexual couples.

On Sunday, Haaretz reported that the state told the High Court of Justice that it objects to the adoption of children by homosexual and lesbian couples, saying that same-sex families are irregular and may "load additional baggage on the child." The Social Services and Justice ministries told the High Court of its position ahead of the hearing that will be held later this week on a petition asking the court to end the present adoption policy, which discriminates against single-sex and common-law marriage families.

The Social Services Ministry claimed that their position was misunderstood, telling Haaretz that there's no principled objection among professionals to allow same-sex couples to adopt, and renouncing the claim that they are "less good parents." Their claim now is that Israeli society isn’t ready enough to accept same-sex families in an equal manner – something that may make it difficult and "add complexity" to the adopted child's life. While this position is based on the ministry workers' professional experience, it's not grounded in research.   

"Adoption in itself is very complex, and there's a difficulty adding to it another complexity in the form of an LGBT family," said a ministry official. "We believe that Israeli society still sees such families as abnormal and still doesn’t fully accept them. Since these are families with unusual characteristics, there are areas where it its more acceptable, such as Tel Aviv, and there's areas where it's less acceptable."

The official added that "the position is based on the analysis and understanding of Israeli society. We will allow the adoption when society fully allows it. The complexity in the life of an adopted child is great, and we want to minimize this complexity and act carefully."

On Monday, Katz went back on the state's position to the High Court and apologized for its wording. "Unfortunately, the wording submitted to the High Court was wrong and it would have been better if it was never said. The minister has no intention of restricting or withholding the right to adopt from any group including LGBT persons," his bureau said.

Despite the announcement, his ministry did not fix its response to the High Court. Katz's bureau added that his position on the adoption issue, as it was received by the Justice and Social Services ministries, is that a comprehensive reform must be carried out in the adoption services, in accordance to the Gross Commission that examined adoption law in Israel over a decade and recommended far-reaching changes.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a co-signatory on the decision together with Katz, refused Haaretz's repeated requests for an interview.