Yonatan Gher
Yonatan Gher
Full time peace, human rights, environmental, social and religious-pluralism activist
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Israel’s same-sex adoption policy: Outrageous, outdated, and lazy

The government trots out LGBTQ freedoms for some good PR, but its real position is lazy, outdated, and unacceptable
Illustrative picture of a same-sex couple with their children (DGLimages/iStock via Getty images)
Illustrative picture of a same-sex couple with their children (DGLimages/iStock via Getty images)

Unlike news stories, op-eds typically don’t begin with the location in which they were written. In this piece however an exception is warranted: I am writing these lines in Boise, Idaho, USA, where my husband and son and I traveled a few weeks ago, for the birth of our second son — Uriah — who was born with the help of a wonderful surrogate here.

We are not here by choice, but rather by necessity, as Israel — our country — will not allow us or any same-sex couple to adopt or undergo surrogacy domestically.

You wouldn’t be able to tell as much from the website of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the state was recently forced to expose its position to a Supreme Court petition. That is, while gay adoption became possible de jure in 2008, de facto, the welfare services made sure that same-sex couples were not actually given any children. The state’s statement claims that it is the position of the professional ranks in the Welfare Ministry that allowing children to be adopted by same-sex parents would create “additional baggage” for the adopted child, by placing him or her in a family “which society still perceives as new and different.”

There are several levels to the absurdity of this position. I’ll start with an anecdote: When we had our first son, we needed to complete a “second-parent adoption by the non-biological father,” and, as this was still an adoption, it involved a social worker from the same Welfare Ministry. The process takes about a year of waiting, and our social worker explained this, saying, “You must understand, these second-parent adoptions are at the bottom of our priorities because these are always perfect, well-functioning families.” Ahem, these are the families they turn down as adoptive parents.

And while we’re on the subject of irony, I can’t help but mention that 0% of the biological parents of babies being put up for adoption are gay. You can be sure that when same-sex couples become parents, it was no accident, 100% of the time.

But let’s unpack that “additional baggage” statement further to what they really mean.

In 2007, I debated former welfare minister Zvulun Orlev on the Hebrew news program Erev Hadash, who said (among other things):

I think children will be badly harmed. I know this from the professional ranks in the Welfare Ministry… if they grow up in a family that is not constructed from a mother and a father… Children are not toys to be played with in experiments, and should not be brought into same-sex households which are definitely unnatural… The child is destined to be ridiculed and bullied by his peers in kindergarten.”

I said then, and I’ll say now — with the experience of being a parent for the past eight years — the problem my children face is not the household they live in, but people like Zvulun Orlev and those who wrote this latest position paper. It is their kids who would be doing any bullying.

I could go into studies and statistics, which have all shown no evidence that children raised by same-sex parents fare any worse than other children on a range of behavioral, educational, emotional or social outcomes, but that is not the real issue now. The real issue is that the government of Israel is incapable of advancing any legislation towards the LGBTI community, and needs any such advancements to be made for it by the courts. You’d never know it to hear them talk. We have two very gay-friendly ministries: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism.

Prime Minister Netanyahu loves us too, and will take every opportunity to use us to cover up Israel’s dubious human rights track record. He’ll talk about how, unlike other countries in the Middle East, some of whom execute gay people, Israel is practically a gay Mecca. There are two problems with that: it’s really not, and what rights we do have, we got despite Netanyahu, not thanks to him. And many of these aren’t rights, but outsources. Yes, we can get married, but only if we fly to another country. We can become parents, but again — in another country. These are privileges, not rights, and they are only available to those who can afford them.

Israel’s position on same-sex adoption is outrageous, outdated, and beyond all else, simply lazy. It was written by “professionals” too lazy to read, for a government too lazy to legislate.

And anyone who can’t see what’s so outrageous about this position need only be reminded that a recent adoption law in Texas allows for discrimination against Jewish — and Muslim, and same-sex — adoptive parents, for pretty much the same reasons put forward by Israel this week.

On a final and personal note, I just want to say that I managed to complete this article while feeding one bottle, changing one diaper, and being spit-up on twice. Call me an inadequate dad, Israel? I’m feeling like Super-Dad right about now.

The writer is the director of Amnesty International Israel, and a proud father.

About the Author
The writer is the Israeli Executive Director of Combatants for Peace. He has previously been the Executive Director of Amnesty International-Israel, Greenpeace Mediterranean, and the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, and Communications Director for the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel. Born in New York, Yonatan grew up in Jerusalem, and now lives in Jaffa with his husband and two sons. All opinions expressed are those of the writer only.
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