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Thousands demand gay adoption rights in mass Tel Aviv protest

Boaz Literat (L), and his friend Uri, at a protest calling for gay adoption reform in Tel Aviv, July 20 2017. Boaz is holding Uri's daughter, Ellie.
Jacob Atkins/i24NEWS
Activists say government needs to 'put their money where their mouth is' on LGBT rights in Israel

Israel’s LGBT community demonstrated its political potency on Thursday night as thousands turned out at a colourful but angry demonstration in Tel Aviv calling on the Israeli government to lift its imposition on gay couples adopting children.

The protest, estimated to have attracted between three to five thousand demonstrators, was marred by violence as police tried to prevent participants from blocking the adjacent street, which also runs alongside the highly fortified Israel Defense Forces (IDF) headquarters.

Currently, LGBT Israelis are permitted to adopt children in Israel only as individuals, not as gay couples.

The long-simmering issue exploded onto the political arena this week when the government responded to a High Court petition by LGBT rights groups that “that it has been decided by the professional bodies in the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry not to act at the present time to change the existing law."

The Ministry also submitted that having gay parents would be “baggage” for the adopted children.

Jacob Atkins/i24NEWS

Yet the organizer of the demonstration told i24NEWS that the government does not need to embark on a legislative process, but can rather decide to make regulatory changes.

“They don’t have to pass a law. Of course if there will be an adoption law it will be easier,” Chen Ariel from Israel’s LGBT association said just before the protest kicked off.

“But we need to understand that Israel, as the democracy of the Middle East, things are a long process. The regulation within the Welfare Ministry will take a long time. But the Welfare Ministry absolutely has the power to say gays could adopt. It’s [Minister Chaim Katz’s] decision to make and then he can create an adoption reform and do all the bureaucracy that comes along with that.”

Chen also demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intervene.

“We all hear the Prime Minister standing on international stages and saying how pluralist that Israel is for the LGBTQ community and how advanced Israel is for the community,” she said.

“We need to see actions behind these words and those headlines because he is only saying it in English, I haven’t heard him saying it in Hebrew.”

The sentiment was supported by left-wing Knesset member Tamar Zandberg, attending with a clutch of opposition lawmakers, who said that the government needs to “put their money where their mouth is” on LGBT rights.

Boaz Literat, from Tel Aviv, said he and his partner intend on having children in the near future and he wants to have all the options that heterosexual couples currently have.

“I am here to protest, about all the issues, that the government doesn’t give us the opportunity to adopt children. It’s very important for us to be equal like everyone else,” he said.

Jacob Atkins/i24NEWS

His friend Uri attended the protest along with cherubic Ellie, his infant daughter. Uri said he and a heterosexual woman signed a surrogacy contract – a common method for single gay men in Israel to have children – and that they divide parenting duties 50/50.

For years the government has recognized children adopted from abroad by gay couples, but options have dwindled recently as formerly popular surrogacy and adoption destinations like Thailand and Russia threw up obstacles or even imposed outright bans.

On Tuesday the High Court gave the government two months to consider its options, while the Social Affairs Ministry reportedly mulls a complete overhaul of adoption regulations in Israel.

The issue is politically prickly for Benjamin Netanyahu’s government because it is steadfastly opposed by the religious wing in his coalition - the Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party, Shas and United Torah Judaism. The Prime Minister’s own Likud is split.

Representatives from almost all the opposition parties were in attendance on Thursday night.

The LGBT Association’s Ariel said that she represents a huge spectrum of LGBT people including religious, secular, Arab and those who live away from the ultra-liberal bubble of Tel Aviv.

“We are the microcosm of Israel, so I expect to see politicians from all the political range here tonight and if they’re not coming, it’s their bad,” she said.

Local media reported that two protestors were arrested after attempting to block Kaplan Street, which had already been cordoned off by police to allow thousands to pack in to the relatively small open space at Sarona Market.

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