Israel's Supreme Court has ruled that its surrogacy laws are discriminatory, and that same-sex couples and single men should be able to have children through surrogacy.
The current law only permits heterosexual couples or single women who are unable to carry a pregnancy to access surrogacy, meaning that the only option for Israeli same-sex couples is to search for a surrogate in another country, which may be substantially more difficult and costly.
In a unanimous ruling, a panel of five judges said that current surrogacy laws 'disproportionately violate the right to equality and the right to parenthood of these groups and are illegal.'
The ruling gives the Israeli parliament one year to pass new legislation.
Prior to 2018 surrogacy was limited to heterosexual married couples only. In July 2018, laws were amended as to legalise its use for single women (and in practice lesbians, as the country does not perform same-sex marriage) – however, this was met by protests as it still excluded single and gay men (see BioNews 959).
In October 2018, the Israeli parliament voted against allowing same-sex couples to access surrogacy. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was criticised, as he claimed to support access to surrogacy for LGBT families, but voted against the bill under pressure from his conservative coalition partners (see BioNews 974).
The decision to further extend access to surrogacy has been welcomed by the LGBT community:
'We're delighted that after ten years [of legal petitions], the High Court made the courageous and correct decision, which delivered economic and social justice for tens of thousands of LGBT couples. There is still a long way to go to complete equality, but as of today we can all establish beautiful families - just like everyone else,' said fathers' rights group Avot Ge'im.
This decision comes just before Israel's general election. Netanyahu's main opponent, centrist Benny Gantz, has used the ruling to position himself as the pro-LGBT candidate to enact the legislation the court requires.