Gay Israeli couples who had been planning to expand their families through surrogacy are criticizing Israel for keeping their families apart. Couples that were in the process of making arrangements with surrogate mothers in Thailand are now claiming that their children are being barred from returning home with them.
While Out Magazine has tagged Tel Aviv as the center of gay life in the Middle East, critics have said that the government is not doing enough. Under current law, homosexual couples are not allowed to become surrogate parents, and, because of this, their only options for surrogacy lie abroad. Thailand has long been a common place of refuge for would-be parents looking to surrogacy and adoption.
At the moment, there are 65 babies in Thailand who were expected to be on their way to their new families in Israel but were met with red-tape. The expectant parents started a “Help Us Bring the Babies Home” group on Facebook. They have been amassing “likes” by the tens of thousands as their group garners an increasing amount of international attention.
Ruby Israeli-Halbreich has become the face of these would-be Israeli parents’ battle. He is now standing outside of Israeli Interior Minister Gideo Sa’ar’s house on a public hunger strike. His partner and newborn child, along with 15 other couples, are currently in Thailand unable to return home together. Israeli-Halbreich told Israel Radio that he will neither eat nor leave Sa’ar’s street until his family can return home together.
The families and their supporters have been focusing their attention on Sa’ar since the beginning of their battle. A string of demonstrations have been organized outside of his home in Tel Aviv. Sa’ar has taken to Facebook to express his sympathy to same-sex parents attempting to bring their surrogate children home but it has done little to quiet his critics.
Protestors have argued that the Israeli couples have already jumped through all of the immigration hoops and are being unfairly denied visas. Advocates and gay couples have heavily criticized the Israeli Interior Ministry for not granting the children Israeli citizenship.
The Interior Ministry has denied all claims of discrimination and says that Thai law automatically bestows Thai citizenship to all babies born to Thai mothers. Because they are citizens of Thailand and minors, the Israeli Interior Ministry has argued that it is illegal to remove them from their native countries. Such a breach would be considered kidnapping by Thai and Israeli law.
On the flip side, protesters have argued that the Thai mothers have already signed a contract giving up any and all parental rights. They claim that similar contracts have allowed heterosexual Israelis and homosexual couples from around the world to have children through surrogate Thai mothers. According to them, Israel is creating a problem that had never existed before.
The Foreign Ministry, Population and Immigration Authority, and Justice Ministry have released a joint statement claiming that only two of the couples in question have applied for Israeli passports for their children and that those families have not yet submitted the certificate proving that the mothers have officially surrendered their parenting rights. Officials within Israel have claimed that they have no reason to attempt to keep families apart if proper procedure is followed.
By Nicci Mende