Since 1992, Israel has slowly been examining the legal status of, and equal rights of, homosexuals (specifically, gays and lesbians), starting with legislation prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. By comparison, depending on the definition of “sexual orientation” and employment in the public versus private sectors, only 20-30 US states have legislations prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexuality. In Canada, LGBT folks have been protected implicitly since the 1985 introduction of section 15 of the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms; the court explicitly noted the inclusion of sexual orientation in 1995 and added the language to the federal charter in 1996.
The main benchmarks for gay and lesbian rights in Israel include:

  • 1992: legislation prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (this included exemptions for religious organizations);
  • 1993: homosexuals can openly serve in the army;
  • 1994: same-sex couples can register for common law marriage;
  • 1994-2001: equal rights extended to same-sex spouses, including spousal benefits, survivor benefits, pension rights, and guardianship of spouse’s children;
  • 2005: gays and lesbians can legally adopt each other’s children (more below);
  • 2006: Israel recognizes same-sex marriage performed abroad (court case focused on gay couple married in Canada; actual registration of their marriage in Israel happened in early 2007).

Which brings us to today. The Israeli government is considering broadening adoption rights for lesbian and gay couples. (Or, as Haaretz has termed it, “single-sex couples.”)

Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog is launching policy that would allow single-sex families to adopt children in Israel who bear no biological connection to them. [Read more.]

It is legal in Israel for gays and lesbians to adopt the biological children of their partners. But, with the exception of one case in 2005, it has not been possible for a couple to adopt a baby/child whom they are not biologically related to.
How does this compare? In the US and Canada, adoption falls under state/provincial/territorial jurisdiction. In the US, the “determination of parenting rights is always made on a case-by-case basis and is ultimately the decision of the judge,” except in the 4 states that have outright banned GLB people from adopting. Thus far, same-sex couples have successfully petitioned the courts in 11 states plus Washington DC. (See the HRC’s Parenting Laws [pdf] for more information.) In Canada, despite what Wikipedia says, adoption is legal from coast to coast to coast, though Alberta and PEI still maintain that gays and lesbians can only adopt their partner’s biological children.
Herzog’s opinion is modern and egalitarian; I’d love to read the other opinions submitted to the Attorney General’s office. The religious members of the court are, not surprisingly, against it. They’ve said that same-sex couples being able to adopt would “undermine Judaism,” and stated that a family should be legally defined as a man and a woman raising children. These are the same old, tired, excuses we’ve all heard before. Those opposed to LGBT rights, and queer families specifically, often claim that children raised by LGBT parents will be less loved, more abused, and, more likely to “become queer.” These claims have been debunked time and again. And it should be noted that most of the “research” against queer families comes from Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.
Given that all Israeli LGBT equal rights legislation have included clauses allowing for religious exemption, how will this play out? Stay tuned…

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In other Israeli, legal, LGBT-related news, there are two Supreme Court hearings tomorrow, Monday the 17th, in Jerusalem. At 9am the court will read the verdict in the case against the “Pride Stabber’s” appeal in Hall B; the hearing on the Jerusalem Municipality appeal will be in Hall D. Both hearings are open to the public.