Nationwide strike set for Sunday to protest exclusion of gay couples

Thousands of people are expected to take part in a nationwide strike on Sunday to protest a law passed Wednesday that denies  state-supported surrogacy to homosexual couples and single men.

The bill expanded eligibility for state-supported surrogacy to include single women, rather than only to married heterosexual couples as it had previously. But it stopped there, generating uproar among the LGBTQ community and its supporters.

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The passage of the law immediately triggered and the announcement of Sunday‘s strike.

"Now is our turn to say no," the The Aguda – Israel‘s LGBT Task Force said in a post on Facebook. "The gay community is going on strike! Lesbian women cannot register their children, transgender people are being stabbed in the street, youths are experiencing LGBT-phobia in educational frameworks, a Knesset that passes laws against equality — we will not continue our lives as usual, we will not allow bullying against the transgender community, youth, or the LGBT community and its members in the peripheries."

"It‘s time to take off the gloves! For the first time in the history of the struggle — the gay community declares a strike! The excuses and smears will not work on us anymore. It‘s a backward retreat and it‘s dangerous!" the post continues. "The LGBT community is calling upon you, the LGBT and community supporters, to join us in a one-day nationwide strike on Sunday, July 22, Tisha B‘Av."

Jeremy Seeff, a director of the LGBTech group and founder of the Israeli Diversity Standard charter told The Jerusalem Post that is sees the strike’s coincidence with Tisha B’Av as a fitting time to fight sinat chinam (baseless hatred).”

Seeff and his colleagues worked through the night, in collaboration with the Aguda, to appeal to major companies in Israel join the cause. Their efforts were successful and by Thursday morning some 60 companies had already come on board.

"We at LGBTech and the Israel Diversity Standard work hard all year round to highlight the great work companies are doing to support LGBT+ employees," Seeff said. "Though our legislature is failing us by adopting an unjust, discriminatory and illogical law specifically excluding single men and gay couples from exercising their rights to family life, we are encouraged to see so many amazing companies taking a stand and leading the way, in place of an unconscionable government. "

"Natural Intelligence, Microsoft, IBM, Mellanox, SimilarWeb, Meitav Dash and a growing list of companies are making it clear that this discrimination, like so many other discriminatory practices in Israel, is unjust and bad for business, and that the corporate world will be at the forefront of making a positive change," Seeff added.

All of the companies joining the strike will allowing their employees to take a paid day off work to join the protest and some have gone the extra mile, stating that they will financially support employees who want to start a family through surrogacy.

"The current version of the surrogacy law excludes the LGBT community and deprives them of the basic and human right to establish a family. This is an unfortunate and unequal law," said. "From now on, every employee who decides to start a family by surrogacy will receive NIS 60,000, regardless of gender, sector, sexual orientation, age or marital status."

Mellanox too stated that it will grant 60,000 NIS to support employees going through the surrogacy process and an additional month of maternity or paternity leave.

Cellcom stated it will grant 45,000 NIS to support employees going through the surrogacy process.

The Gulliver tourism company said that any of its employees who decide to start a family via surrogacy will receive a round trip ticket to the country where the procedure will take place.

SodaSteam CEO Daniel Birnbaum said his company will donate 61,000 NIS to the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers.

The Histadrut labor federation head Avi Nissenkorn also rallied to the cause, calling on LGBTQ employees of the federation to take part in the strike and urging unions and organizations across the country to allow workers to take part in the protest.

Meitav Dash Director Avner Stepak said: "Sometimes I pinch myself to believe that it‘s really happening. That the prime minister, a father of three himself and dozens of rude MKs, most of them parents themselves, decided to deny human being the right to parenthood. The right for which people are willing to die… the right to parenthood is the most basic right there is here. Don‘t give up, we are with you!"

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video posted to YouTube that he still supports surrogacy for both mothers and fathers, after he voted against an amendment proposed by Likud MK Amir Ohana granting single men access to surrogacy.

“Today we voted in favor 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. Despite that, I said that if he introduces a law for fathers I will support it. This is the right thing to do,” he said.