Nationwide strike set for Sunday to protest exclusion of gay couples

Microsoft, Mellanox promises NIS 60,000 to employees going through surrogacy

People in Tel Aviv take the streets to protest surrogacy law that excludes single men and gay couples, July 17, 2018 (Courtesy)
Thousands of people are expected to join a nationwide strike Sunday to protest the law passed Wednesday that denies state-supported surrogacy to homosexual couples and single men.
The bill 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.
The passage of the law immediately triggered demonstrations in Tel Aviv and the announcement of Sunday's strike.
“Now is our turn to say no,” the Aguda – Israel’s LGBT Task Force – wrote in a Facebook post. “The gay community is going on strike! Lesbian women cannot register their children, transgender people are getting stabbed in the street, youths are experiencing LGBT-phobia in educational frameworks, the Knesset passes laws against equality – we will not continue our lives as usual, we will not allow bullying against the transgender community, the youths of the LGBT community and its members in the peripheries.
“It’s time to take off the gloves! For the first time in the history of the struggle, the gay community declares a strike! The excuses and smears will not work on us anymore. It’s a backward retreat and it’s dangerous!” the post continued. “The LGBT community is calling upon you, the LGBT and community supporters, to join us in a one-day nationwide strike on Sunday, July 22, Tisha Be’av.”
Jeremy Seeff, a director of the LGBTech group and founder of the Israeli Diversity Standard charter, told The Jerusalem Post that it sees the strike’s coincidence with Tisha Be’av as “a fitting time to fight sinat chinam [baseless hatred],” referring to Judaism’s belief that the Second Temple’s destruction on the ninth of Av in the year 70 occurred because of infighting.
Seeff and his colleagues worked through the night, in collaboration with the Aguda, to appeal to major companies in Israel join the cause. Their efforts were successful and throughout Thursday dozens of companies expressed their support for Sunday’s strike.
“We at LGBTech and the Israel Diversity Standard work hard all year round to highlight the great work companies are doing to support LGBT+ employees,” Seeff said. “Though our legislature is failing us by adopting an unjust, discriminatory and illogical law specifically excluding single men and gay couples from exercising their rights to family life, we are encouraged to see so many amazing companies taking a stand and leading the way, in place of an unconscionable government.”
A list of some off the companies that have supported a strike against Israel's surrogacy law, and will allow employees to take a day of paid leave in order to protest. (LGBTech and the Aguda-Israel’s LGBT Task Force)
A list of some off the companies that have supported a strike against Israel's surrogacy law, and will allow employees to take a day of paid leave in order to protest. (LGBTech and the Aguda-Israel’s LGBT Task Force)
“Natural Intelligence, Microsoft, IBM, Mellanox, SimilarWeb, Meitav Dash and a growing list of companies are making it clear that this discrimination, like so many other discriminatory practices in Israel, are unjust and bad for business but that the corporate world will be at the forefront of making a positive change,” Seeff added.
All of the companies 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 a day off.
SOME OF the companies have gone the extra mile, stating that they will financially support employees who want to start a family through surrogacy.
“The current version of the surrogacy law excludes the LGBT community and deprives them of the basic and human right to establish a family. This is an unfortunate and unequal law,” Microsoft said. “From now on, every employee who decides to start a family by surrogacy will receive NIS 60,000, regardless of gender, sector, sexual orientation, age or marital status.”
Mellanox too stated that it will grant NIS 60,000 to support employees going through the surrogacy process and an additional month of maternity or paternity leave.
Tel Aviv-based Gulliver Tourism announced it will provide any of its employees who decide to start a family via surrogacy with a round trip ticket to the country where the procedure will take place.
SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum said his company will donate NIS 61,000 to the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers.
Histadrut labor federation head Avi Nissenkorn also rallied to the cause, calling on LGBT employees of the federation to take part in the strike and urging unions and organizations across the country to allow workers to take part in the protest.
Meitav Dash director Avner Stepak said, “Sometimes I pinch myself to believe that it’s really happening. That the prime minister, a father of 3 himself, and dozens of rude MKs, most of them parents themselves, decided to deny human beings the right to parenthood. The right for which people are willing to die... the right to parenthood is the most basic right there is here. Don’t give up, we are with you!”
Major TV and news networks also expressed their support, including public broadcaster Kan, which said, “We support all our employees who choose to express their worldview.” Kan asked the Treasury to allow employees who wish to strike as part of the LGBT protest to be granted a day off.
Other companies and organizations which expressed their support included El Al, the Israeli Opera, Shufersal, Isracard, LeumiCard, the Hotels Association, Teva, Facebook Israel, and Cellcom.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video posted to YouTube that he still supports surrogacy for both mothers and fathers, notwithstanding that he voted against an amendment proposed by Likud MK Amir Ohana granting single men access to surrogacy.
“Today we voted in favor of a law for mothers. I told MK Ohana ahead of time that I would not support his current amendment because it would topple the law and then mothers would not have access to surrogacy. Despite that, I said that if he introduces a law for fathers, I will support it. This is the right thing to do,” he said.
Following the new law, a gay female couple may go down the surrogacy path by registering one partner as a “single mother” while their male counterparts cannot.