Not ‘Single Parents.’ Gay Parents

Netanyahu’s support for surrogacy for ‘single parents’ as a way to enable it for LGBT people isn’t enough; it casts doubt on those kinds of partnerships

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Revelers take part in Tel Aviv's gay pride parade, June 8, 2018.
Revelers take part in Tel Aviv's gay pride parade, June 8, 2018.Credit: Corinna Kern / Reuters

A buzzword is a wonderful thing. It begins with a new expression thought up by an expert on the subject, is adopted by colleagues and colleagues of colleagues who are less expert, is written in some publication, and there it is – the most common and hated word in the jargon.

A current example is “single parents – yehidanim. “Single mothers have a right to a surrogacy process, but single fathers have no such right. It’s simply unfair and must be changed,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video that raised eyebrows.

For a moment let’s ignore that for years this hot potato has been lying in wait for the legislators and the High Court of Justice. Let’s also ignore that as the head of the system and a person who says of himself that “when I want something I get it,” Netanyahu had innumerable opportunities to promote the issue instead of voting against every initiative and sending the legislation into the deep freeze.

Let’s start with the assumption that now, as Netanyahu attests in the video, Likud MK Amir Ohana has drawn his attention to the built-in discrimination. Eureka. But the problem is embodied in the solution. In the buzzword.

First for the full half of the cup. It’s true that surrogacy for “single mothers” and “single fathers” is a type of solution. It paves the way for anyone who is otherwise unable to bring children into the world. In that sense, we can’t help but welcome the declaration of intentions and hope that, for a change, it will be translated into full legislation that will be translated into families with children.

We can even hope that this will happen soon, when so many people have been waiting for the good news for too long already. Still, experience shows that bringing other people’s children into the world isn’t as urgent as approving the tax exemption on paying for the Netanyahus’ house in Caesarea, or other legislative initiatives that have recently passed after receiving fast-track treatment.

But not all is rosy, and in this connection even less so. Because what does “single” mothers and fathers actually mean? When there's a couple who share their lives, who sometimes, if they married in a country that allows it, are defined as married on their Israeli ID cards and are about to do the job of raising children together – why is it that suddenly there’s only one of them?

The reason for the distortion is pretty clear. In this way some people hope to square the circle and enable even the religious-Zionist and ultra-Orthodox coalition partners to swallow the bitter pill. They can close their eyes to the clear perversion of a man who loves a man and a woman a woman, and allow the limited genetic relationship with the help of a third party.

What happens afterward will remain, in the best tradition, for the parents themselves, who will once again be forced to drag themselves to the courts and navigate the other wonders of the bureaucracy in order to convince everyone that there’s a child for all intents and purposes except for the genetic link.

But this squaring of the circle, which provides a solution for an urgent need, represents a serious regression of the communal and social struggle. It casts legal doubt on the parenthood of the partner and especially on the partnership itself. It calls a married man, or unfortunately a common-law husband, a single person – and on an issue of unparalleled sensitivity. It forces him to lie – yes, to live a lie again – and it forces government authorities to collaborate in this lie.

Only that way, when he swears “I’m a single parent,” will he be able to show up in the delivery room, wait with bated breath for the first cries and hold the newborn. It’s sad to imagine where his partner will be at the time – a man who has also undergone the process and has just become a parent too.

The debate surrounding surrogacy has been long and exhausting, and includes a wide range of controversies. There's a considerable lack of information about the process and the role of the surrogate mother in the life of the new family. But the opposition to surrogacy has at least a pretension of humane concern. When we’re willing to accept the process, but only for “single parents,” that’s already homophobia for its own sake.