In the 90’s it was widely believed in this country that as far as gay rights were concerned, Israel was one of the most progressive states in the world.
This opinion was based on the High Court of Justice ruling of 1994, in the case of Jonathan Danilowitz against El Al, which ordered employers to grant equal benefits to partners of the same sex. Also contributing to this opinion was the IDF’s decision in 1993 to rescind the restrictions on gays and lesbians’ service in classified positions.
This opinion is no longer relevant. In the past 20 years the democratic world has undergone a change regarding this issue and Israel was left behind.
More and more states have recognized same-sex relationships − whether as a registered union with rights identical to those acquired by marriage, or by enabling gay spouses to marry.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision on Wednesday, forcing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages in states where it is legal, is a significant step in this development. The court also upheld a lower court ruling finding the ban on such marriages in California unconstitutional.
Thus the United States joined France, New Zealand, Uruguay, Brazil and soon Britain, which have made the change this year. The Western world has had its say − it accepts same-sex marriages and recognizes them.
In Israel the rights of same-sex spouses have been recognized, following the Danilowitz ruling, and on the basis of the common-law spouse institution and the position adopted by former Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.
Also, following a High Court of Justice ruling of 2006, based on the Cyprus marriage precedent, gay couples who were married abroad can register as married with the Population registrar in Israel.
But complete equality is yet to be achieved. Common-law spouses may be required to prove their relationship again in a manner that subjects them, especially those without access to information and legal aid, to an unequal burden. Surrogacy is also closed to them in Israel and the option of adoption is mainly theoretical.
Israel must join the wave of recognition in the Western world and enable civil marriage to all, including same-sex partners.
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