Israel Defies Ruling to Register Same-sex Parents on Children’s Birth Certificates

Lesbian couples challenging policy in court but state currently will register only biological parent.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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A rainbow flag and an Israel flag.
A rainbow flag and an Israel flag waved during the Tel Aviv's Gay Pride Parade in 2003.Credit: Ariel Schalit
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

The state is refusing to register same-sex parents on their children’s birth certificates. The state currently will register only the biological parent, but the other spouse does not appear. Once a parenthood order has been issued or adoption process completed, the other spouse is registered in the population registry and on the ID card, but not on the birth certificate.

Following three inquiries by lesbian couples a couple of months ago, the Family Court ordered the Population and Immigration Authority to register same-sex spouses who are not the biological parents on the child’s birth certificate. But the authority refused to abide by the decision and submitted a request for its review, arguing that this ruling exceeded the Family Court’s authority.

One of the requests for registering two mothers on a birth certificate said that the couple had been in a relationship for 17 years and married nine years ago in Canada. Their marriage was recorded in the population registry and on their ID cards. They decided to have children via an anonymous sperm donation, and in 2010 each gave birth several months apart, to a boy and girl. Two years later, they completed the process whereby each woman adopted her partner’s biological child and was listed in the population registry as the child’s mother. Last year, they decided to have another child, and in May of this year one of the woman gave birth to a son, again by means of an anonymous sperm donation.

The Petah Tikva Family Court accepted their petition, issued a parenthood order and for the first time ordered that the parent who is not the biological child be recognized as the child’s other parent from the date of the child’s birth. The order, signed by Judge Yocheved Greenwald-Rand on July 14, says, “The applicant will be registered in every registry, including the population registry, as the minor’s other parent, and the minor will be registered as her son in every sense, and a birth certificate shall be issued for the minor, listing the two applicants as his mother.”

Following the decision, the couple went to the Kfar Sava registry office and asked to record the non-biological parent in the population registry, ID and birth certificate. The clerk there declined to do so and referred them to their lawyer. “We were told that they couldn’t give us what it said in the decision,” Hagar, one of the spouses, told Haaretz yesterday.

The state has filed requests for review of the three decisions. The state argues that the Family Court is not authorized to instruct the Population and Immigration Authority how to act in regard to the population registry. Attorney Yehudit Ariav-Fuchs of the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s office also argued that the parenthood order, like an adoption order, takes effect at the time it is granted in court, and cannot be retroactively applied to the date of the child’s birth.

Daniela Yaakobi, the parents' attorney, rejects the state’s arguments. “The order that was given by the court reflects word for word what is required in terms of requests for parenthood orders. The legal adviser in the Welfare Ministry explicitly agreed about this, both in terms of the date of their validity and in terms of issuing the birth certificate.”

She continues, “The request reflects a discriminatory policy by the Interior Ministry towards single sex families and severely harms the children’s welfare and their right to family life. The Interior Ministry’s decision to try to exert pressure on the mothers by refusing to register their children is deplorable.”

Hagar says it is a matter of principle and she will not give up. “This is important. Every baby that is born receives a birth certificate that includes the names of both parents and we don’t see any reason for the state to remove one mother. This does not reflect the child’s situation. The reality is that the child has two parents, two mothers, and the state is refusing to acknowledge this. Every child has the right to a birth certificate, the first document that any person receives, to reflect his reality. There is no reason why we shouldn’t get the same thing as everyone else.”

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