Hundreds Protest in Tel Aviv After Netanyahu Flip-flops on Surrogacy Bill

Protesters block roads over bill excluding same-sex couples. Organizer of demonstration: 'The prime minister's smiling face shows his huge disconnect from the people'

Protesters demonstrating in Tel Aviv against gay discrimination in surrogacy law, on Wednesday.
Tomer Applebaum

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to protest after the Knesset voted down legislation that would have permitted same-sex couples to be surrogate parents. 

The police demanded that protesters disperse, telling them that the demonstration was illegal, as demonstrators blocked major city streets. 

One of the protest organizers said: "The Knesset launched a war against the gay community today, and the community will fight back. The prime minister's smiling face while he voted for hatred and against the gay community shows his huge disconnect with the government."

Among the slogans shouted by protesters were "Netanyahu is a homophobe, so we took to the streets" and "Homophobia is terrorism, no excuse will help."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voted on Wednesday against an amendment that would have allowed same-sex couples to qualify as surrogate parents despite voicing public support for it earlier this week.

Netanyahu took to Twitter to respond to the criticism, saying the amendment would have torpedoed the bill it was attached to, which permitted single women to be surrogate parents. Netanyahu added that he would support a separate bill permitting single fathers to be surrogate parents if it is brought to the Knesset.

On Sunday, Netanyahu said he supports the bill in a closed meeting with Likud lawmakers. “I support surrogacy for single fathers,” Netanyahu said, adding that he favored amending the law during the current Knesset session if possible, but if not, he said it should be done later on, via reservations to an amendment bill that MK Amir Ohana (Likud) raised last week, to permit surrogacy procedures for same-sex couples.

Netanyahu has expressed support for LGBT family rights several times in recent years but has not followed up most of these declarations with any action.

>> Israel is isolating the LGBT community with its surrogacy and adoption laws | Opinion ■ Not ‘single parents.’ Gay parents | Opinion 

Netanyahu heads a conservative coalition which rejects any recognition of LGBT family units. Habayit Hayehudi, the ultra-Orthodox parties and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu Party all reject support for any amendment on the issue.

Members of the opposition booed Netanyahu after the vote, and MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) was removed from the Knesset chamber. Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel (Likud) was at the Knesset at the time of the vote but she did not enter the chamber.

The LGBT Task Force called on its members to strike on Sunday in response to the vote. “We call on members of the community to be absent from work, to close their businesses and take part in public protests.” The group said activists had approached major employers and informed them of the planned strike, as well as union officials and employers’ organizations.

The Task Force noted that the strike on Sunday coincided with Tisha B’Av, a fast day marking the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, traditionally said to have occurred due to “baseless hatred.”

“The strike is a protest against the baseless hatred of the ultra-Orthodox and conservative politicians against the LGBT community in Israel,” the group said.

The CEO and founder of the New Family organization, Irit Rosenblum, said that the bill is "the first law in decades that aims directly to harm the gay community. Israel is on fire, in and out. This is very bad news for the gay parents' community and for Israel as a liberal society."

A statement from the Likud party on Wednesday said: “Prime Minister Netanyahu voted today for the surrogacy law for single mothers, because it is a bill that was supported by the coalition and takes an important step forward in support of single mothers.”  The statement went on to say that later on he would support the bill put forward by MK Ohana extending the law to single fathers.

The law is intended to allow women without a partner and who are unable to become pregnant for medical reasons to give birth by means of a surrogate. The law permits surrogacy for parents who have at most two joint biological children and for a mother with no more than two of her own biological off-spring.

Knesset Social Welfare and Health Committee chairman MK Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) who presented the law in the name of the committee, opened his remarks with an apology to the LGBT community. Addressing MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), who is gay, Alalouf said: “I am in pain because unfortunately I can’t provide solutions for you and Amir [Ohana], who is also gay, and to people who came to the committee and were angry about the state’s attitude to the LGBT community. Today, to gain progress in the community, things have to be done in the dark of night, not in an open and dignified way.”