Thousands protest Israeli law denying surrogacy rights for gay couples

Thousands protest Israeli law denying surrogacy rights for gay couples
Thousands of protesters gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to demonstrate against an Israeli law denying surrogacy rights for gay couples.
2 min read
23 July, 2018
Local news reports put the number of attendees at 60,000 [AFP]

Israelis held a one-day strike to protest a law denying surrogacy rights to gay couples, with thousands attending a rally in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

Some 60,000 protesters attended the city's central Rabin Square, according to Haaretz, were police officers were deployed to "ensure the safety of participants and maintain public order".

Earlier in the day demonstrators blocked a major Tel Aviv highway for about 20 minutes.

Protesters also blocked roads and halted traffic in central Jerusalem and two were arrested, police said.

Israeli media showed dozens of protesters at each of a number of locations throughout the country, including those shouting "shame" and waving rainbow flags.

At Rabin Square, a regular venue for protests or celebrations, demonstrators brandished rainbow flags and some held a banner reading "We are family."

The rally came after parliament on Wednesday approved surrogacy for single women or those unable to bear children - without granting the same right to same -sex couples or single men.

Previously, only heterosexual married couples were able to use a surrogate.

Around 200 companies announced they would allow their employees to miss work in order to protest, without it counting against their vacation days.

Sunday is already a semi-official holiday in Israel as Jews mark Tisha B'av, which commemorates the destruction of the two biblical-era temples.

"It is a symbolic measure, but one that shows real support," Julien Bahloul, spokesman for the Association of Gay Fathers in Israel, told AFP.

Some companies said they would contribute up to $15,000 to help gay couples seek surrogacy abroad.

Bahloul said gay couples wanting to have children must find a surrogate mother abroad but the costs can rise to more than $100,000. These would be cut in half if Israel allowed the practice, he said.

Israel has been a trailblazer when it comes to gay rights, but same-sex relationships remain a taboo among religious conservatives who prop up Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's right-wing government.

The premier relies on ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, both of which oppose families with same-sex parents.

Opposition MP Ofer Shelah, of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said he had gathered signatures from a sufficient number of lawmakers to force Netanyahu to answer questions on the issue in a parliamentary debate.

"We shall not let Netanyahu avoid giving an answer on the blatant discrimination against the LGBT community over the surrogacy law," he said in a statement.

"The debate is only the beginning of a process," he wrote, adding that the ultimate aim was "changing the law and ending the discrimination".

Israel's Channel 11 public television said that the Israeli Supreme Court was to hear this week petitions against the law from two male couples.

Agencies contributed to this report.