At Least Five Arrested as Thousands Protest in Tel Aviv Against Same-sex Adoption Discrimination

Demonstration before government offices follows Israeli government's position that having gay or lesbian parents causes 'an extra burden on the child'

Demonstrators protest against discrimination of same-sex adoptions in Tel Aviv, July 20, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

Thousands of people gathered to protest in Tel Aviv on Thursday against the state's opposition to adoption by gay and lesbian couples.

The protest comes following the state's submission to the High Court of Justice on Sunday that it would not lift the discriminatory procedures for same-sex couples who want to adopt children in the country, claiming that same-sex families are irregular and may "load extra baggage on the child."

Five people were detained by the police during the demonstration. The protest, organized by Israel’s LGBT Task Force, led to the closure of a central Tel Aviv thoroughfare.

Protestors gather before government offices in Tel Aviv, July 20, 2017
Moti Milrod

LGBT Task Force head Hen Arieli spoke at the demonstration. "We are here to tell the prime minister, ministers and Knesset members – we aren’t here only so you can tell the world what an enlightened country Israel is and so that 30,000 tourists will have what to do in June," she said, referring to the annual Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade.

Israel Religious Action Center head Rabbi Noa Sattath slammed the ministers of Habayit Hayehudi in her speech at the demonstration. "Minister [Naftali] Bennett tries to say that he loves us, only he isn’t interested in giving us recognition and equality. To that we answer – we are not asking for your love, we ask for complete equality for us and our families," she said.

"Minister [Ayelet] Shaked and her party wish to continue with the discrimination against us, thus marking us as irregular. And this irregularity – which they themselves create – they present as a claim for discrimination. This move is transparent and despicable. We will not be silent on homophobia."

Gay singer Harel Skaat, who earlier in the week called on LGBT youth to avoid army service and on the LGBT community not to pay taxes, performed at the demonstration. Dana International, a transgender Israeli pop star, also performed.

Some 90,000 people signed an online petition this week calling on permitting gay and lesbian couples to adopt children. "We're fed up with the state's hypocrisy," the petition reads. "On the one hand, they use the LGBT community as propaganda abroad, and on the other hand, they treat the community as second-rate parents."

'I have two dads, and I'm happy,' reads a sign held by protestors in Tel Aviv, July 20, 2017
Moti Milrod

In a brief submitted to the High Court, the state noted the Children's Welfare Service believes having same-sex parents would add "additional baggage" for the adopted child. Following the public backlash from supporters of same-sex adoption, Social Services Minister Haim Katz announced that he would re-examine the state's position. The High Court's hearing on the matter was postponed from Thursday morning to September 19. 

The Israel Psychological Association responded to the state's brief by writing a letter to Katz expressing its opposition and pointing out that scientific research in the matter contradicts the state's position. "Raising children in LGBT families does not negatively affect children's mental health and does not harm their psychological and emotional development. This position is accepted by other psychological organizations in the world, particularly the American APA," the letter explained.