If Daddy Says No, Ask Abba

This article was first published in the January 2, 2012 issue of The Jerusalem Report magazine.

Yosef Weinstock (left) and Aviad Stier with their son and daughter in 2009 (photo by Boaz Berney)

A tow-headed five-year-old boy plays his Lego pieces on a hot summer day at his home in Herzliya, a comfortable suburb north of Tel Aviv. His two-year-old sister toddles into the playroom and joins him. As she messes up one of his carefully constructed creations, he calls for help. “Abba!” he demands, turning to Aviad Stier. But when Stier fails to respond immediately, he turns to his other parent. “Daddy!” he calls pleadingly, turning to Yosef Weinstock.

These young siblings are two of an estimated 150 to 200 children belonging to Israel’s recent “gayby” boom. Faced with the complexities and prohibitions of Israeli surrogacy and adoption laws, as well as Jewish religious rulings, homosexual Israeli men – mainly couples, but also some singles – are turning in increasing numbers to foreign surrogacy, primarily in North America and India, to build their families. They expend huge amounts of financial resources and emotional energy to have children using this kind of assisted reproductive technology involving an egg donor and a gestational carrier, but no mother in the conventional sense of the word.

These gay fathers face a complicated legal journey through territory that, until about four years ago, was still relatively uncharted. They also face animosity from Israeli feminists, and even other homosexuals, who accuse them of exploiting women in the process.

Despite the growth in the number of babies being born to gay couples, it wasn’t until the story of a Jerusalem restaurateur named Dan Goldberg hit the media in May 2010 that most Israelis learned of the “gayby” boom that has been taking place in their country over the past half decade.

Goldberg and his partner, Arnon Angel, decided on pursuing surrogacy. After fathering twins with the help of an egg donor and a gestational surrogate in India, Goldberg found himself stuck in Mumbai for two months trying to bring the Israeli government to recognize his paternity and grant the children Israeli citizenship so he could bring them home.

In order to get Israel to grant citizenship to a child born outside the country, the parents have to prove that the child is the biological offspring of at least one Israeli citizen. By law, this can only be done through a DNA test ordered by an Israeli court and performed in an Israeli lab. Until Goldberg’s case, most gay men in his situation had been able without much difficulty to get the necessary court order from an Israeli family court.

But Jerusalem family court judge Justice Philip Marcus refused to issue the order. According to Marcus, only a parent could ask for a paternity test, and he did not recognize any such relationship between Goldberg and the babies, Victoria Gelfand, a Tel Aviv-based attorney who specializes in foreign surrogacy, explains to The Jerusalem Report. Goldberg appealed to the Jerusalem District Court, which overruled Marcus’s ruling and ordered the DNA paternity test to be done. Finally, after burning through his savings while waiting in Mumbai, Goldberg was able to bring his twin infant sons home.

Goldberg was able to get attention through social media, including a YouTube video that he made, explaining his situation and showing his babies. But it was Marcus’s apparently homophobic remarks – “If it turns out that one of the people sitting here is a pedophile or a serial killer, these are things the state has to check,” he stated – that turned the case into a cause célèbre for gay and civil rights groups.

Since then, the press has been publishing more stories about gay parenthood by surrogacy, and a new group, “Surrogacy for Homosexuals in Israel” is demanding that Israel change its surrogacy law to allow gay men to apply for surrogacy in Israel.

The rest of this article can be read in the January 2, 2012 issue of The Jerusalem Report. The article is online, but it is currently behind a pay wall.

© 2011 Renee Ghert-Zand.  All rights reserved.

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