North American Jewry urges Israel to provide equal adoption rights for same-sex couples

(JTA) – Some 200 Jewish leaders and institutions from North America urged the Israeli government to end discrimination against same-sex couples who want to adopt children.

The call came in a letter to the government co-ordinated by A Wider Bridge, a San Francisco-based organization that focuses on ties between U.S. and Israeli LGBTQ communities. Signatories included Hillel International, leaders of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Union of Reform Judaism, prominent Jewish LGBTQ leaders and over 60 rabbis.

Last week, Israel notified the High Court of Justice that it would not lift discriminatory practices against same-sex couples, as they “load additional baggage” on their children. Same-sex couples are legally allowed to be approved for adoption, but they typically must wait longer and can only receive children if no heterosexual couple is available.

The Israeli government doubled down on its position in response to a petition by the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers, which called for equal treatment in the adoption process.

“The government’s brief and position have created a justifiable uproar throughout Israeli society,” according to the letter. “LGBTQ Israelis, their families, and allies across the country are speaking out with unparalleled unity at both the callousness and ignorance of the government’s position.”

The letter noted that while Israel has provided the LGBTQ community with public benefits and the ability to serve in the Israeli army, the issue of “adoption by same-sex families has been one of the glaring exceptions” to its reputation as gay friendly.

“There are many important qualities that lead to strong, well-adjusted families – but the sexual orientation of parents is not among them,” according to the letter.

The executive director of A Wider Bridge, Arthur Slepian, said, “I think the letter reflects the extent to which LGBT equality has become a core issue for many [non-Orthodox] Jewish communities in America.”

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