A rainbow coloured placard in the colors of the LGBT flag [Illustrative].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Adoption, surrogate births and sperm donation for same-sex couples were some of the topics discussed at the Knesset on Tuesday, as members of the Caucus for the LGBT Community met with gay rights activists.
The caucus co-hosted the session on issues facing LGBT families along with The Aguda: The Israeli National LGBT Task Force that provides a variety of services for the community. Knesset members from parties across the political spectrum attended the event, where they expressed their support for the LGBT community and listened to LGBT citizens explain the challenges they face and the reforms they desire.
Such reforms include legal and social recognition of a non-genetic parent, budgeting for education about LGBT families in schools, and recognition of same-sex marriage.
MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu) is frustrated by the lack of gay rights legislation passed by the Knesset.
“We have a really big issue with legislation, because you can’t do anything with the ultra-Orthodox in the government,” she said. “In my opinion, the state is supposed to be better for LGBT families.”
Ben-Ari said she wants to help in every way possible.
The three most critical areas for improvement are education, welfare and health, she said.
“I hope that maybe in the future we can have legislation or pass a bill that deals with LGBT marriage. But even [many straight] Jews in Israel have an issue getting married through the Orthodox way; [if they haven’t been able to change the law], I’m less than optimistic [about change in this area for LGBT people].”
Ben-Ari advocates separation of religion and state.
“If I don’t have the ability to pass laws, I have the opportunity to do things for the community and help them,” she said.
In March, Ben-Ari, who is single, gave birth to a daughter whose father is a gay friend. She said she wants to educate her daughter to think differently on these issues so that she will live in a better Israel.
The other members of the Caucus for the LGBT Community are MK Yael German (Yesh Atid), MK Sharren Haskel (Likud), MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) and MK Michal Rozin (Meretz), all of whom were present at the event. Other members of Knesset were in attendance, including Michael Oren (Kulanu) and Amir Ohana (Likud), the first openly gay right-wing Knesset member.
LGBT activist and lawyer Michal Eden lamented that her same-sex family is considered “suspicious” and “problematic.”
She said that legislators could help her in reforming the adoption laws and the procedure surrounding sperm banks. According to Eden, one third of women who use sperm banks are lesbian, yet these sperm banks do not recognize same-sex couples.
Zehorit Sorek, an Orthodox Jew and openly lesbian leader of Yesh Atid’s LGBT caucus, shared the legal difficulties her son faces in the IDF.
“In the forms that he needed to fill out, [he needed to write down] the name of the father,” she explained.
Instead of her son having to leave the answer blank, which is a problem in the IDF, “I want to change [the question so that it asks for] the names of the parents,” she said.
Sorek sees many other areas for improvement in gay rights in Israel and is upset by the number of unresolved issues, such as the current illegality of transgender marriage.
“Parents [who] are both transgender, or one is transgender, and they biologically have a child... are not recognized by the State of Israel as the parents,” she said.
Her own marriage is also not recognized by the state.
Tamar Yahel, a mother of two, shared the daily challenges she faces raising children in a same-sex family. She recounted how when dropping off her son at kindergarten, she was asked whether “she or the child’s mother” would be picking him up that day.
“I feel that these members of Knesset can really change reality,” Yahel said after the conference.
“It’s like what they said: It’s not really about law.
There are a lot of things they can say and they can make people do in the different offices of the government that will really make a difference.”