Analysis

Israel's Opposition to Adoption by Same-sex Couples Proves: The State Lags Behind Society

The Israeli public is largely sympathetic toward the LGBT community. The state's opposition to same-sex couples adopting is simply disconnected from reality

File photo: Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Sebastian Scheiner/AP

One of the encouraging developments in Israeli public discourse – and there aren’t too many – is the relatively favorable attitude toward same-sex couples and LGBT families. Such families and their children are not only welcomed in wealthy “liberal” Tel Aviv neighborhoods, but in south Tel Aviv, outlying towns and communal settlements. The children of such families frolic in public parks, in community centers and in day camps, just as all children do.

“Are there gays and lesbians in the settlements?” I once asked one of Gush Emunim’s founding fathers. “Of course there are,” he responded, to my amazement. “Right now we’re not familiar enough with them, but as time goes on, it will be a norm here, too.”

My conclusion, as the daughter of proletarians from the periphery, and a veteran of a number of trips around the country and encounters with people from various backgrounds, is that other than a few hate crimes, like the shooting at Tel Aviv’s Bar Noar in 2009 and the murder of Shira Banki at the Jerusalem gay pride parade in 2015, the Israeli public is sympathetic. The Israeli public is irreparably ruptured on various issues, but once the LGBT community started to have families, they received pretty impressive acceptance, given that Israel has religious laws and a large traditional population.

But despite that introduction, which is absolutely true, there is a law that creates a discriminatory legal reality that wouldn’t exist against any other minority, and is being circumvented only by the exhausting struggles of individuals in the courts. As it stands now, a new mother can drag in the first homeless man that she sees outside the hospital and register him as the father of her new baby, but her partner, with whom she’s been living for years, with whom she planned this baby and who will bear the burden of raising it, cannot have her parental rights and obligations recognized by the state without an arduous procedure.

This discrimination only continues later on. Those who have the awareness and means to obtain legal protection for their family will do so, but those who don’t could find their family seriously undermined by a crisis such as separation, illness or death. In such cases, the welfare of the child born into a certain reality will suffer. The state’s response to petitions challenging discrimination against common-law couples or same-sex couples seeking to adopt outside the family is equally disconnected from reality.

Committee: No proof straight parents better for child than gay ones

Nine years of research by the Gross committee included a definitive opinion by Prof. Zvi Triger, an expert on family and gender issues, who argued, “There is no factual or scientific support that it is for the child’s benefit to be given to a heterosexual family over a homosexual or lesbian family, and this is a conservative approach that has no place today.”

The state’s response, however, isn’t even evasive. While stating that such a change in policy, if it occurs, must come from the legislature and not from the courts, “to the point,” it argues, “The position of the professionals in the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, as noted above, is that there is no place for changing the law at this time.” Triger’s opinion and the evolving reality are routed by arguments like, “One should permit a child to be adopted only by families that are not considered exceptional in Israeli society.” One could ask all sorts of questions about this, like whether allowing a black child to be adopted by a white family wouldn’t create an “exceptional” situation, at least as complicated as a household with two parents of the same gender, but it’s hard to even start a rational argument with such an obtuse attitude.

The state’s response also says, “The overriding principle of adoption laws, against which all considerations related to the matter of meeting the interests of the others involved (particularly the natural parents and the intended parents) is the best interest of the child.”

After nine years, the state still believes that the child’s best interest is not dependent on the character, nature or willingness of the people raising him, but on their sexual preferences. How much darkness there is across the abyss.