(Corrects figure in paragraph 12 to 57 percent)
By Hugo Greenhalgh
LONDON, July 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Israeli LGBT campaigners vowed on Monday to step up their fight for the right to become parents following mass demonstrations in Tel Aviv in support of gay fathers.
Tens of thousands of people attended a rally in the city’s main square on Sunday after parliament last week voted against a legal change, which would have allowed single fathers the right to access state support for surrogacy services.
Israel does not legally recognise same-sex relationships, but the change in legislation would have provided gay couples the opportunity to access state support.
Campaigners vowed to build on the momentum from Sunday’s rallies, which were also held in other cities.
“Yesterday felt like the independence day of the LGBT community,” said Shlomi Laufer, a spokesman for Aguda, the Israeli National LGBT Task Force, an advocacy group.
“Now we are talking to other LGBT organisations and the local communities in the north and the south of Israel to try to find a solution,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday.
Advocacy groups and their supporters were particularly upset at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s last minute decision to vote against an amendment that would have provided surrogacy support to single fathers.
Israel’s parliament did approve an amendment giving single women and women unable to become pregnant for medical reasons the right to apply for state support for surrogacy.
Questions remain over whether parliament might call a special summer session to debate the issue and LGBT rights in the country more generally, or push through another bill in the next session.
However, Julien Bahloul, a spokesman for the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers (AIGF) said both scenarios looked unlikely due to political uncertainty, including the possibility of an election in the next few months.
“We are very pessimistic,” he said.
Of 500 people surveyed by Israel’s Walla News as the demonstrations were taking place, 57 percent supported the right of gay men to have children via surrogacy.
Activists said that more than 200 companies supported Sunday’s call for a strike by LGBT workers.
“It was the biggest LGBT demonstration in all Israeli history and a lot of people want to preserve this kind of energy and spirit to continue the fight,” Bahloul said.
"We don't want this demonstration to be a one-shot protest." (Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh, Editing by Jared Ferrie. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)