A pro-LGBT campaign that began with the support a few dozen companies snowballed over the weekend, with hundreds of major companies joining the nationwide strike set for Sunday to protest a law passed last week that denies state-supported surrogacy to homosexual couples and single men.
All companies and organizations joining the strike will allow their employees to take a paid day off work to join the protest. While some of the businesses extended the offer specifically to LGBT employees, others said that any employee who wished to join the protest would be given the day off. Some companies have gone the extra mile, stating that they will financially support employees who want to start a family through surrogacy.
The bill – enacted Thursday just before the Knesset recessed for the summer – expanded eligibility for state-funded surrogacy to include single women rather than only married heterosexual couples, as it had previously done. But it stopped there, generating uproar among the LGBT community and its supporters.
Those who have expressed support of the strike include major Israeli media and TV networks, top hi-tech companies, retail, grocery and cosmetics giants, banks and many more.
The Aguda – Israel’s LGBT Task Force – is coordinating the efforts and LGBTech has been leveraging its network, as the organization championing LGBT+ professionals, to get companies on board.
“We are seeing a social wave of support for the LGBT+ community, not just on the issue of surrogacy, which was the catalyst on this occasion, but for the very idea of a just and equal society,” Jeremy Seeff, a director of the LGBTech group and founder of the Israeli Diversity Standard (IDS) charter, told The Jerusalem Post.
“Trans-gendered people are being stabbed in the streets, discriminatory laws are being passed and inequality is far reaching,” Seeff said. “Companies are, for the first time on this scale, showing that there is social but also commercial value in standing up for equality, and are proving to be critical drivers for change. Through the Israel Diversity Standard, we plan to engage these companies (and many more) to ensure not just immediate action, but also long term defense of basic human rights.”
The IDS is a benchmark for LGBT inclusivity in business in Israel, which was launched at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in March 2017. To date, 18 of Israel’s largest and best-known companies have endorsed the gender diversity initiative. Through the IDS, companies gain access to best practices, as well as a network of professionals interested in ensuring LGBT people are included and celebrated in the workplace.
The Aguda encouraged all those striking to leave an out-of-office message explaining the reason for their absence, in order to raise awareness. An example the Aguda gave reads as follows: “I’m not at work today because I believe that all human beings are equal – straight and LGBT. I also joined the largest protest strike in the history of the State of Israel in protest against LGBT-phobic legislation, in protest against the fact that the State of Israel does not allow equality to the gay community in all areas of life and as a protest against the harsh violence against the transgender community.”
Protests are scheduled throughout Sunday across the country. Participating cities and communities include Even Yehuda, Kochav Yair, Kfar Saba, Afula, Pardes Hanna-Karkur, Beersheba, Karmiel, Kiryat Shmona, Ra’anana, Modi’in, Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Activities include dialogue circles, protest tents, and demonstrations at major intersections and in front of government complexes.
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