Israel's Supreme Court on Sunday cleared the way for same-sex couples to have children through surrogate mothers, a move hailed by lawmakers and activists as a victory for LGBTQ rights.
The court ruled in 2020 that a surrogacy law, which had expanded access to single women but excluded same-sex couples, "disproportionately harmed the right to equality and the right to parenthood" and was unlawful.
It gave the government a year to draw up a new law, but parliament failed to meet the deadline.
The court said Sunday that "since for more than a year the state has done nothing to advance an appropriate amendment to the law, the court ruled that it cannot abide the continued serious damage to human rights caused by the existing surrogacy arrangement."
The change in the law is to take effect in six months to allow the formation of professional guidelines, it said.
The Aguda, an Israeli LGBTQ activist group, applauded the decision as a "historic landmark in our struggle for equality."
Ultra-Orthodox lawmaker Aryeh Deri, formerly the country's interior minister, wrote on Twitter that the court's decision was another serious blow to Israel's Jewish identity and that "most of the nation desires safeguarding the tradition of Israel, preserving Jewish family values."
Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll, an openly gay member of the Knesset, retorted: "I am sure that most of the nation loves and respects my Jewish family that was created through surrogacy."
Etai and Yoav Pinkas Arad, the same-sex couple who appealed to the court against the surrogacy law in 2010, said the ruling "is a big step for equality not just for LGBTQ in Israel, but for equality in Israel in general."
Under the existing regulations, Israeli same-sex couples looking to become parents cannot engage a surrogate, and are often deterred by the additional costs of finding one abroad.
The state had argued that the law was intended to protect surrogate mothers but the court ruled that it would be possible to strike a balance that would not discriminate.
In contrast with much of the conservative Middle East, Israel is generally tolerant toward its LGBTQ community. Gay people serve openly in Israel's military and parliament, and many popular artists and entertainers, as well as the country's current health minister, are openly gay. Nonetheless, obstacles — including the absence of civil marriage that would allow same-sex marriage — remain.