Massive Protest, Strike in Israel Over Exclusion of Gay Couples from Surrogacy

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Massive Protest, Strike in Israel Over Exclusion of Gay Couples from Surrogacy

© AP Photo / Esteban Felix

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On Sunday, some 100,000 people demonstrated across Israel in protest of an amendment to a surrogacy law that allows single women to qualify to become parents through surrogacy but excludes same-sex couples and single men.

Many had walked off the job, taking part in a strike that had been called by gay rights organizations in response to the legislation.

​Thousands of gay rights advocates and supporters were seen in major cities across the country, including Haifa and Jerusalem, waving rainbow flags and shouting “shame” over the amendment, which passed Wednesday. Hundreds of employers also said they would allow employees to participate in the strike without penalty, Time reported Sunday.

​Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to support an amendment to existing surrogacy legislation that included homosexual couples, but then voted against it when it was presented in the Knesset, the national legislature of Israel. The amendment that ultimately passed extends surrogacy rights to single women but does not allow same-gender couples to become parents through surrogacy.

The protest was announced Wednesday on Facebook by the Agudah, a non-profit LGBT rights organization in Israel.

​”For the first time ever, the gay community will go on a national strike,” the Agudah wrote on Facebook. “On that day workers from the community, and likewise our supporters and partners, will not be present at work and will close their businesses to protest the blatant discrimination against the LGBT community and the deterioration that has begun recently due to the government’s efforts to roll back back our campaign,” the post added.

​”It’s very important. I’m not from the community, but I believe in equality,” a protester told the Times of Israel Sunday. “It’s just not right that some people can’t have kids.”

“I think it will make a difference — I’ve never seen such activity online for a cause. It’s different this time,” she said. “Bibi can’t avoid making a change.”

Orna Banai, an Israeli actress and comedian who attended the protest, addressed a crowd at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.

​”Too many times we’ve heard that we actually have it really good here, and there’s no discrimination. Because they’re not stoning us, they want us to sit down and be quiet,” Banai said.

“But are you willing to sit down and be quiet?” she asked the crowd, who responded with a concerted “No.”

Protesters marching through Tel Aviv blocked the Ayalon highway, a major intra-city freeway in Gush Dan, on Sunday.

​Following the passing of the law, Israeli divisions of international companies, including Microsoft and Apple, offered to financially support any employees who decide to start a family through surrogacy, Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported Sunday.

“The current text of the surrogacy law excludes the LGBT community and denies them the basic human right to establish a family,” the Microsoft Israel R&D Center wrote on it official Facebook page this week. “This is a regrettable and unequal law. Starting today, every one of our workers who decides to set up a family using surrogacy will receive NIS 60,000 ($16,500) irrespective of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or marital status. Everyone!”

​According to reports, protests also took place Saturday in Times Square in New York City.

“We’re all far from what is happening in Israel and thinking about how we can help our friends who are fighting for their rights,” the invite to the protest read, Haaretz reported Sunday.

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