(photo credit: JQY/Robert J. Saferstein)
A bill to grant equal tax credits to male same-sex couples with children as are available to heterosexual couples, passed its preliminary hearing in Knesset Wednesday, following a raucous debate in the plenum.
The passage of the bill comes after the issue generated serious conflict within the coalition between Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi, which saw the national-religious party veto the bill earlier this month because it objected to language in the bill which gave legal recognition to homosexual couples.
In a deal worked out Tuesday night, the two parties agreed to pass the bill in its preliminary reading and then to iron out the details during the committee process.
As such, the three members of the Bayit Yehudi faction present in the plenum voted in favor of the legislation in Wednesday’s vote.
Sources in the Bayit Yehudi party told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday morning that the goal was to change the taxation guidelines.
The agreed upon text of the bill, according to the sources, states that the Minister of Finance will be given the authority to grant tax credits in “additional instances” to that currently permitted by law.
The Bayit Yehudi official said that the purpose of the bill was to enable same-sex couples to obtain the tax rights but without providing legal recognition of same-sex partnerships.
Bayit Yehudi opposes recognition of same-sex marriage on religious grounds.
But Yesh Atid chairman and Minister of Finance Yair Lapid and Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol were reluctant to acknowledge the terms of the deal with Bayit Yehudi during the Knesset debate and appeared to insist that the legislation would include recognition of gay couples.
Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Galon pointed out the discrepancy in the different positions of the two coalition parties and departed the plenum, along with the rest of the Meretz MKs, in protest at the failure to include recognition of the rights of gay couples in the bill.
Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, the only openly gay member of Knesset, said that “there is a limit to hypocrisy,” and that the party “will not lend our hands to hollow political spin on the back of the gay community on behalf of a conflicted and failed coalition.”
At present, the tax code gives different credits to men and women, with women able to claim greater tax breaks than men.
Male same-sex couples are therefore entitled to lower tax breaks than heterosexual couples where the female partner can claim the higher tax credits.
The bill will give same-sex couples, whether male or female, the same rights to tax credits as enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
In the explanatory text to the bill, this state of affairs is described as discriminatory
Yesh Atid chairman and Minister of Finance Yair Lapid said during the debate that the bill was designed to “fix an injustice” and to allow same sex couples to benefit from tax credits as do heterosexual couples.
“The [Hebrew] word tolerance comes from the word suffering,” explained Lapid. “It’s not easy to accept that which is different from you.”