Big Story 10

Israel's LGBT community calls for strike action after surrogacy bill defeat

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blocked a legal change on Wednesday that would have given gay men the right to become parents, sparking protests by the nation’s LGBT community and calls for strike action next weekend.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak took to twitter to blast Netanyahu who was reported in Israeli media last weekend to have pledged to back a legal amendment to add same sex couples to a surrogacy bill.

The bill was designed to allow single women and women who are unable to become pregnant for medical reasons the right to apply for state support for surrogacy.

Netanyahu, however, moved on Wednesday to vote against the amendment that would have included single fathers and, by extension, gay couples as Israel has yet to legally recognize same-sex marriage.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is spineless. First he says that he is in favor of surrogacy for homosexual fathers and then votes against it,” Barak wrote on Twitter.

Netanyahu’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

On Monday, Israeli LGBT organizations and activists demonstrated to push for the addition of same sex couples to the bill, blocking one of the main streets in Tel Aviv, the country’s business capital.

A spokesman for the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers said further demonstrations had already begun in Tel Aviv in protest at the vote on Wednesday .

“Of course, everyone is really disappointed and now they are organizing a lot of protests and actions,” the spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We are trying to organize a strike for Sunday and calling on all LGBT people not to go to work – something that has never happened in the past.”

Tyler Gregory, executive director of the New York-based A Wider Bridge, which promotes ties between with Israel and its LGBT community, warned that gay people faced “mounting odds” in the wake of the passage of the bill.

“As a newlywed likely to pursue surrogacy with my husband someday, I’m taking this news personally, and I hope our supporters will too,” he said.

“We may have lost last night, but the struggle to build a stronger, more inclusive Israel is far from over.”