The government of Israel confirmed Sunday that it has no intention of lifting a prohibition on same-sex couples adopting children.
Responding to a petition from the High Court, the state insisted that allowing gay couples to adopt would place an “additional burden” on children.
“The professional opinion of the Child Welfare Services supports preserving the existing situation,” that adopting couples consist of a man and a woman, the government said in its response. “[This] takes into account the reality of Israeli society and the difficulty it may entail with regard to the child being adopted.”
The state also said that it should be the Knesset, and not the courts, that decides on the issue.
Filed by the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers and the Israel Religious Action Center, the petition asked the Justice Ministry and Social Welfare Ministry to consider allowing common-law and same-sex couples to adopt.
While it allowed that common-law spouses should be allowed to adopt, the government remained steadfast in opposing same-sex parents’ rights.
Udi Ledergor of the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers said the statet “has declared war on gay families.”
“It’s amazing that Israel is willing to spend enormous resources on legal procedures whose entire goal is to harass and abuse gay families, instead of directing those resources to improve the lives of its citizens, who only want equality before the law and state.”
Michal Rozin, a member of the Knesset’s LGBT caucus, said the Israeli government “is abandoning the gay community and this highlights the government’s cynical use of the community: In English, they boast about [being LGBT-friendly], but in Hebrew, they deny basic rights.”
Currently gay couples can only adopt when heterosexual married couples cannot be found—which usually translates to children with health issues or from at-risk backgrounds. And if they do manage to get paired with a child, the law views them as two individual adoptive parents. (A total of three same-sex couples have adopted since 2008, when the policy was enacted.)
Israel is often viewed as a safe haven for LGBT people in the Middle East—homosexuality was decriminalized in 1963 and gay and trans people can serve openly in the military. But the influence of the country’s powerful orthodox Jewish community means same-sex relationships have no legal standing. (Same-sex marriages performed elsewhere can be registered for mostly statistical purposes.)
In 2016, one day after Prime Minister Netanyahu announced Israel’s first “LGBT Day,” the Knesset voted down five bills that would’ve improved LGBT rights, including measures to introduce civil unions, ban conversion therapy for minors, and recognize the same-sex spouses of fallen IDF soldiers.
An effort to allow same-sex couples to work with surrogates in Israel was also rejected.