Israel’s LGBTQ Community Fights for Equal Surrogacy Rights

The government recently shot down an amendment that would have extended parental rights to gay and lesbian couples.

Tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv this Sunday to protest the government’s denial of equal parental rights to same-sex couples.

A new law enacted in Israel this week granted single women surrogacy rights. However, conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his religious-right political coalition blocked an effort to pass an amendment that would have extended those same rights to same-sex couples. Previously, Netanyahu had voiced his support of equal surrogacy rights. But when super-Orthodox members of his coalition voiced their objection, he backpedaled, yanking his support of the amendment.

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The rejection was a slap in the face to gay Israelis, some of whom have spent upwards of $100,000 in their efforts to start a family outside the country, according to The New York Times.

Haaretz, a local media outlet, estimates that some 60,000 people attended this weekend’s protest in Tel Aviv. Demonstrators reportedly blocked two main roads and multiple lanes of a major highway, chanting “Homophobia is terror” and “Shame, shame.”

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“This is the 21st century,” Itzik Shmuli, a gay lawmaker from Israel’s Zionist Union party, told The Times. “People are not seated at the back of the bus because of the color of their skin, and they will not be deprived of the right to be parents because of their orientation.”

The Israeli government’s relationship to the country’s LGBTQ community is somewhat fraught: In addition to unequal parental rights, marriage equality has not yet made its way to Israel. This January, however, Magen David Adom (MDA), the country’s equivalent to the Red Cross, lifted its ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. And in March, a suburb of Tel Aviv elected its first openly gay mayor, a victory LGBTQ advocates lauded as “another glass ceiling being shattered.”

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