Tax credits bill for gay couples passes preliminary hearing

Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid in mutual recriminations whether a deal was agree to dilute the bill in committee.

Gay Pride flags 370 (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
Gay Pride flags 370
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
A bill to grant male samesex couples with children the same tax credits as heterosexual couples passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset on Wednesday, following a raucous debate in the plenum.
The measure passed by 44 votes to 20. The issue generated great conflict within the coalition, between Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi. The latter party vetoed the bill earlier this month because it objected to language that gave legal recognition to homosexual couples.
According to Bayit Yehudi, the two parties worked out a deal on Tuesday night, in which they agreed to pass the bill with its original text in the preliminary reading and then to iron out the details during the committee process.
The agreement was reached during a meeting of the faction chairmen of the coalition parties, during which a general discussion took place on the frequent divisions and arguments that legislation on religion and state caused within the 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 would give same-sex couples, whether male or female, the same rights to tax credits as heterosexual couples enjoy, with one of the partners able to claim the tax credits applicable to women.
Because of the deal, Bayit Yehudi chairman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett voted in favor of the legislation in Wednesday’s vote.
MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), who worked on brokering the deal with Yesh Atid faction chairman MK Ofer Shelah, did not manage to vote on the bill because of the uproar in the plenum at the time, according to her spokeswoman, but asked that the protocol record that she was in favor of it.
A source in Bayit Yehudi told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday morning that the goal of the bill from the party’s point of view was to change the tax guidelines.
According to the source, the agreed upon text of the bill, when adjusted in committee, will state that the finance minister, Yair Lapid, who is also chairman of Yesh Atid, will be given authority to grant tax credits in “additional instances,” beyond those currently permitted by law.
The Bayit Yehudi official said 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 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.
A Bayit Yehudi source accused Kol and Lapid of breaking the agreement.
Lapid said that “this bill will not [simply] melt or go away, and in accordance with the agreement of the coalition chairmen, we will deal with it and advance it, because it implements and strengthens the holy principle that says that every person has the right to live exactly as he chooses to live.”
Kol said, after the vote, that the bill represented an important milestone in the process of securing equal rights for same-sex couples.
“I will preserve the principles and the essence of the bill throughout the legislative process,” she said, which would seem to contradict Bayit Yehudi’s demands that the bill will grant equal tax rights but not legal recognition of same-sex partnerships.
A spokeswoman for Kol, who introduced the bill, said she was not aware of any “physical document” or agreement, and that the party would work to preserve the “principles” of the bill in committee.
A Yesh Atid party spokeswoman said that the purpose of the legislation was to grant the same tax rights for the benefit of children of same-sex partnerships as were available to other children, and that the details of the bill would be worked out “with agreement between coalition factions” in the committee process, adding that it was impossible to know how the measure would look after this process was completed.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On pointed out the discrepancy in the positions of the two coalition parties during the debate and departed the plenum, along with the rest of the Meretz MKs, in protest of the failure to include recognition of the rights of gay couples in the bill.
Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, the only openly gay member of the Knesset, and a sponsor of the bill, 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.”
Lapid said during the debate that the bill was designed to “fix an injustice” and to allow same-sex couples to benefit from the same tax credits that heterosexual couples receive.
“The [Hebrew] word for tolerance comes from the word suffering,” he explained. “It’s not easy to accept what is different from you.”