The state seemed to swing back and forth on Monday over its position on gay adoption, a day after filing a legal brief with the High Court of Justice in which it opposed it.
It was still unclear by the end of the day what the Labor and Social Services Ministry and Justice Ministry’s real positions are on the issue, and why they seemed to be altering them by the hour.
In a brief submitted on Sunday on behalf of the government, the Justice Ministry said it opposed the Israel Religious Action Center’s petition to permit gay couples to adopt, on two main grounds.
The first was no secret. The government and the country are divided over the issue, with the Zionist Union, Meretz and Yesh Atid parties pro, the Shas, UTJ, Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beytenu parties anti, and the Likud, Kulanu and Joint List parties split internally.
Accordingly, the Justice Ministry said that the issue must be ironed out by the Knesset as part of a wide public debate over the broader issues of gay marriage and gay rights.
But then the Justice Ministry added an unexpected reason to oppose. It represented to the court that the Social Services Ministry, which has primary responsibility for adoption issues, viewed adoption by a gay couple as imposing additional difficulties on the child and potentially hampering the success of the adoption.
It is standard for the Justice Ministry to file and argue policy on behalf of the other ministries, once those ministries convey their positions to the attorney-general.
However, after heavy criticism from the Zionist Union, Meretz and Yesh Atid parties and one Kulanu MK, the Social Services Ministry issued a bizarre clarification, which seemed to both backpedal and create more questions.
The statement said, “Unfortunately, the language in the brief that was submitted to the High Court was failed language which would have been fitting if it had not been said. The minister has no intention to prevent or reject one group or another’s ability to adopt.”
Furthermore, the statement said that the minister’s main focus was to implement the Gross Commission reforms for streamlining the adoption process in general.
Confronted by The Jerusalem Post
to explain its backpedaling from its position presented to the High Court by the Justice Ministry and to clarify why this antigay adoption position was presented if the Social Services Ministry does not believe it, the Social Services Ministry responded with a third statement.
The third statement said that “the policy of the office remains with no change,” seeming to confirm that it stood by its earlier antigay adoption position submitted to the High Court.
The statement again emphasized that the general reforms should be the focus, and that “only after their implementation should the legislative branch consider the interest of other groups,” presumably referring to gay couples.
The Social Services Ministry did not respond to further inquiries from the Post to explain the seeming back-and-forth swing in its view of the issue.
Likewise, the Justice Ministry did not respond to inquiries from the Post
about whether it had written that the Social Services Ministry was against gay adoption without that ministry’s approval, why that would have been, and if not, why the Social Services Ministry was backpedaling.
Anat Hoffman, director of the Israel Religious Action Center, told the Post
on Monday, “The government should not say it is the professional opinion of social welfare experts. Tell us the truth. Say that in the political structure today, we are unable to decide the right thing, and let the court decide.
“But don’t pretend it is a professional opinion, because professionals on the Gross Commission sat for nine years and said that, at least abroad, gay parents were as good, if not better. They did not find any flaw in gay parents’ adoption,” said Hoffman.
Asked what she expects from the High Court, Hoffman said, “There were cases where the government said it was not ready for massive change. And the court said, We are going to help the country do the right thing. That is what I am hoping will happen in our case.
“Especially if common-law parents can adopt from the state’s recommendation, the court cannot wait for the Knesset... if [blocking gay adoption] is in complete opposition to existing laws.... It is misguided and insincere for the state to say it opposes [gay adoption] because of the welfare of the child,” Hoffman continued.