Same-sex couples in Israel can use surrogate mothers to have children, the country’s highest court ruled on Sunday (July 11th), a move hailed by equality advocates but seen by conservatives as eroding values family.
In February 2020, the Israeli Supreme Court issued a first, partial decision ordering lawmakers to end discrimination in surrogacy within twelve months, asserting that the exclusion of same-sex couples and single men was unconstitutional. But the government of the day, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and which included ultra-Orthodox parties opposed to surrogacy, had not legislated on this sensitive issue.
In a new ruling on Sunday, the court ruled that the exclusion of same-sex couples and single men from the right to surrogacy was “Contrary to human rights”. “We cannot accept the persistent prejudice and contrary to human rights that the existing device on surrogacy constitutes”, wrote President Esther Hayut, giving the new government six months to comply with this final decision of the country’s highest court.
This measure is the culmination of a fight of more than ten years for its defenders, against conservative legislators, who see it as an erosion of family values.
Divisions within government
Israel is the best student in the Middle East in terms of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer) rights. The Jewish state has several openly gay men in parliament, but until now surrogacy has remained inaccessible to same-sex couples and single men.
The use of surrogate mothers was legalized in Israel in 1996, but only for heterosexual couples and then for single women. Some Israeli homosexual couples thus resort to surrogacy in countries such as India, Nepal, Thailand or the United States.
In 2010, the homosexual couple Etai and Yoav Arad-Pinkas were the first to take legal action on this matter. After a first failure, in 2015 they launched a petition with groups defending the rights of LGBTQ people. Oz Parvin, head of the Israeli Gay Fathers Association, called the court’s decision” unbelievable “. Together with his partner, he himself had performed surrogacy in India nine years ago.
This decision comes nearly a month after the arrival of a new coalition in power, led by Naftali Bennett and his ally Yaïr Lapid, favorable to the surrogacy, which includes the left formation Meretz, whose leader, Nitzan Horowitz, is openly gay. “Equality, finally! “Minister of Health Horowitz tweeted on Sunday, assuring that his ministry would prepare to receive surrogacy requests from men.
But the question of surrogacy could also divide this new government, because its maintenance in power depends on the support of the small conservative Islamist party Raam, which has called homosexuals “Deviant”. In opposition, far-right MP Bezalel Smotrich, from the religious Zionism party, called “Collapse of the Jewishness of the State of Israel” the decision of the Supreme Court, while Yaakov Litzman, tenor of the party “Unified Judaism of the Torah” asserted that she “Compromised the future of the Jewish people”.