JERUSALEM (JTA) – The Knesset passed a surrogacy law that expands those eligible to include single women, but excludes single men and gay couples.
The legislation passed Wednesday night by a vote of 59 to 52.
Following the vote, hundreds of demonstrators blocked streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. LGBTQ groups called for a nationwide general strike on Sunday to protest the exclusion of same-sex couples in the legislation. Many medium and large Israeli companies, and at least one public hospital, said they will allow their workers to participate in the strike.
The local divisions of several international companies, including Microsoft and Apple, announced they would support financially any employees who want to start a family though surrogacy.
Before the vote on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reversed course on the legislation. Prior to the vote he had said on Facebook that denying surrogacy rights to single men “simply isn’t fair. It needs to be corrected.”
Nevertheless, he voted against a proposed amendment that would have extended access to surrogacy to single men, despite saying he would vote for it.
Netanyahu said following the vote, “Today we voted in favour of a law for mothers. I told MK Ohana ahead of time that I would not support his current amendment because it would topple the law and then mothers would not have access to surrogacy.” Haredi Orthodox political parties had threatened to topple the government if the law did not exclude single men and gay couples.
Knesset member Amir Ohana is the first openly gay man from Netanyahu’s Likud Party to serve in the legislature
Under the new law, a family may have five children by surrogacy instead of the two now allowed, and a surrogate can give birth five times, including her own children, and up to age 39.