Israel lifts ban on same-sex couples and single men becoming parents through surrogacy

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Same-sex couples, single men and transgender people in Israel will be able to become parents through surrogacy from next week, the health minister announced Tuesday on what he hailed as an “historic day” for the country’s LGBT community.

The announcement upholds a Supreme Court ruling from last year annulling part of a law banning homosexual couples from having children through surrogate mothers.

“Today, we are putting an end to years of injustice and discrimination,” said Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who is openly gay.

“Full equality. That is the simple demand and it is the goal of the LGBT struggle, the long struggle of my community,” he told a news conference announcing the ministry had issued a circular granting equal access to surrogate pregnancy.

Mr Horowitz said the law change would make surrogacy available to single men and transgender people, “actually to any individual.”

For years Israel’s LGBT community had demanded access to surrogate parenthood, which is available to heterosexual couples and single women.

Previously the law required those seeking  a surrogate mother in Israel to obtain permission from the health ministry, which made them available to heterosexual couples who were Israeli residents, or single female residents when she had medical problems preventing her from giving birth.

Some ineligible couples sought out surrogate mothers abroad but others said the additional costs involved in travelling was unfair.

The Supreme Court ruled last July that the surrogacy ban for same-sex couples and single men violated their rights but gave six months for its ruling to come into effect to allow for the formation of professional guidelines.

The government had argued that the law was intended to protect surrogate mothers but the court held it would be possible to do this without discrimination.

Israel is one of the most gay-friendly countries in the Middle East, with openly gay members of parliament and the military.

Obstacles remain however, including not allowing same-sex marriage within Israel, though it will recognise same-sex marriages registered abroad.

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