Protecting and Promoting LGBT Rights in Israel

ACRI’s achievements over the past two decades

For more than a decade, ACRI has been at the forefront of the struggle to ensure equal rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community in Israel. ACRI works through several parallel channels to challenge all forms of discrimination against the LGBT community: litigating before the Supreme Court and the Labor Court, submitting appeals to administrative review boards, proposing and drafting legislation, conducting educational programs and public outreach activities, and playing a central role in coalitions formed to promote the rights of gays and lesbians. In tribute to ACRI’s achievements in this field, ACRI was chosen for honorable recognition in 2001 by the Council for the Rights of Gays in Israel for its “incomparable legal contribution to advancing the equality of gays and lesbians in Israel through systematic and consistent legal action.”

Spousal Benefits for Same-Sex Partners:
· ACRI won a landmark legal victory in response to its Supreme Court petition on behalf of El Al Airlines flight attendant, Jonathan Danilovich, who requested that his same-sex partner receive benefits from the company comparable to those received by heterosexual partners of employees. The revolutionary and precedent-setting ruling recognized the rights of same-sex partners for the first time. (1994)

· ACRI met with similar success in response to its lawsuit in the Labor Court on behalf of Professor Uzi Even demanding that his employer, Tel Aviv University, provide the same benefits to his same-sex partner as those provided to the heterosexual partners of other staff members. Based on the Supreme Court judgment in ACRI’s case against El Al (above), Tel Aviv University agreed to provide the full range of benefits to same-sex partners. (1994)

Registration of Same-Sex Marriages Conducted Abroad
· In a precedent-setting decision in response to a petition submitted by ACRI, the Supreme Court ruled that the Population Registry must register the marriages of same-sex couples who were married abroad. The landmark ruling constitutes an important milestone in the struggle to ensure gay and lesbian rights in Israel. (2006)

Medical Benefits for Same-Sex Partners:
· In April 2007, ACRI filed a suit with the District Labor Court in Jerusalem on behalf of an employee of El Al’s Bangkok branch following the State’s refusal to cover the health insurance costs of the employee’s Thai partner. ACRI claimed in the lawsuit that the State’s refusal in this instance to cover the costs of the health insurance, in contrast to State practice in similar situations, is tainted by discrimination based on personal status, sexual orientation, and national origin. (2007)

Protecting the Inheritance Rights of Same-Sex Couples:
· In September 2007, ACRI submitted a written intervention to Justice Minister Daniel Friedman, protesting his decision to define a common-law couple as a “man and a woman who live together and share a joint household” in the proposed new Inheritance Law being prepared by the Justice Ministry. Minister Friedman decided to alter the wording of the proposed legislation so that the common-law couple section would again refer explicitly to a man and a woman (as it did prior to a 2004 Nazareth District Court ruling recognizing same-sex couples). In our intervention, ACRI argued that this formulation threatened to open the door to a new interpretation whereby only heterosexual partners would be entitled to inheritance rights (in the absence of a will). In response to our intervention, the Justice Minister reversed his decision and informed ACRI that he “would not advance the proposed Inheritance Law, if the matter would harm the property rights of same-sex couples.” (2007)

Recognition of Same-Sex Partners by the Israeli Military:
· The Supreme Court ruled in favor of an ACRI petition on behalf of Adir Steiner, demanding that the Defense Ministry grant the petitioner the right to honor the memory of his deceased same-sex partner as part of the official memorial ceremony, in a manner accorded to heterosexual partners, and to provide the memorial rights that would be provided to a heterosexual partner. (1996)

Conjugal Visits for Same-Sex Couples:
· ACRI appealed to the Prison Service Commissioner in January 2009 to change the official regulations on conjugal visits to include same-sex partners, as has been enshrined in law since 2001. The appeal highlighted the fact that same-sex couples are now considered a family unit on all accounts, thanks to the “true revolution” that has transpired in Israel in the previous 15 years. Moreover, ACRI emphasized the importance of conjugal visits to fulfill spiritual and emotional needs, given the isolation experienced during incarceration. (2009)

Opposing Ban of Television Program for Gay and Lesbian Youth:
· ACRI, together with the organization Claf and the Association for Gays and Lesbians, successfully opposed the Education Minister’s banning of a television program dealing with gay and lesbian teenagers. As a result of ACRI’s Supreme Court petition, the Court revoked the ban and the broadcast was reinstated. (1997)

Equal Right to Fertility Treatment:
· As a result of ACRI’s successful legal intervention, the Supreme Court ordered the Health Ministry to cancel regulations that discriminated against lesbian couples in the criteria for entitlement to fertility treatment. ACRI submitted a petition to the Supreme Court against the Ministry’s regulations requiring single women (the category also used to define lesbian women in long-term relationships) to undergo psychiatric tests and an interview with a social worker as a condition for receiving donor sperm, a demand that is not made of married women. In accordance with ACRI’s demand, the Health Ministry issued instructions that single women seeking fertility treatment must receive the same treatment as married women. (1996)

Recognition of Adoption by Same-Sex Couples:
· ACRI won a landmark victory on behalf of Ruti and Nicole Berner-Kadish, entitling them to register the adoption of their son Matan by Nicole, the non-biological mother, with the Interior Ministry. ACRI filed a Supreme Court petition on their behalf in response to the Ministry’s refusal to recognize their shared parenthood of Matan, challenging the Ministry’s argument that it is impossible to register two mothers to one child. As a result of ACRI’s petition, the Court ordered the Ministry to register the adoption. (2000)

Continuation of the Struggle for Recognition of Adoption by Same-Sex Couples:
· In December 2007, a panel of nine High Court justices ordered the Interior Ministry to register overseas adoptions by same-sex parents. ACRI again represented Ruti and Nicole Berner-Kadish, who were not registered as dual mothers of two of their sons despite the Court’s previous ruling (see above). Following the earlier ruling, the Interior Ministry challenged the decision and requested a further hearing before an expanded panel of High Court justices. In the years that passed, numerous same-sex couples were left without any legal relation to their partners’ children. In the 2007 hearing, the Court rebuked the State for its failure to adhere to the ruling that was issued seven years previously. The Court’s decision upheld the original ruling and forced the Interior Ministry to register same-sex adoptions performed abroad. Ruti Berner-Kadish said in response to the Court’s decision, “This ruling… is a stepping stone in accepting – not just tolerating – different constellations of families.” (2007)

Enacting Law Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation:
· ACRI, in cooperation with “Otzma”, the political wing of the Association for Gays and Lesbians, drafted an amendment to the Equal Opportunities in Employment Law prohibiting discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation. ACRI and others participated in Knesset hearings in order to ensure the advancement of the legislation. ACRI, Otzma, and others brought about the enactment of the groundbreaking amendment, which bans discrimination at every stage of the employment process, beginning with the submission of candidacy for a position through termination of employment. (1991)

Ensuring Visitation Rights with Same-Sex Partner:
· ACRI persuaded the Supreme Court that the Rabbinic Court had exceeded the limitations on its authority in prohibiting a divorced mother from meeting with her children in the company of her same-sex partner. In response to ACRI’s petition, the Supreme Court ruled that the Rabbinic Court had no authority to issue said limitation on visitation, and that the mother was entitled to enjoy visits with her children and her same-sex partner. (2000)

Securing Equal Treatment by Tax Authorities:
· In reply to an appeal submitted to the Supreme Court by ACRI on behalf of a gay couple, the State Attorney’s Office announced that it agreed to include same-sex couples in those eligible for the exemption from betterment and purchase tax, a right previously reserved solely for married couples or heterosexual common-law spouses, in cases in which one member of the couple transfers rights in their joint place of residence to his/her partner. The new eligibility of same-sex couples for this exemption ended what was effectively a financial penalty for homosexual couples, which had prevented the joint ownership of shared assets. (2004)

· As a result of ACRI’s intervention, the Attorney General instructed the Customs Authority to allow a same-sex partner to drive the tax-exempted car of a new immigrant, a right previously provided only to heterosexual spouses. (1995)

Securing Pension Rights, Life Insurance and Other Benefits for Same-Sex Partners:
· As a result of ACRI’s intervention to senior officials at the Finance Ministry, a pension fund was compelled to recognize the pension rights of the same-sex partner of the deceased, a major shift in policy. (2000)
· As a result of ACRI’s appeal to the Civil Service Commission on behalf of a retired kindergarten teacher and her lesbian partner, the Commission acknowledged the right of same-sex partners of civil service employees to survivor benefits. (1998)

· Following ACRI’s intervention on behalf of an employee of the Tel Aviv Municipality, the Finance Ministry agreed to revise the insurance policies of state and municipal workers to include same-sex partners. (2000)

· ACRI achieved an important success when it forced an insurance company, through legal action, to pay employment compensation benefits to a deceased person’s surviving same-sex partner, based on the argument that the relevant statutory provision governing compensation payments includes same-sex couples. (1999)

Ensuring that Same-sex Couples are Eligible for Housing & Mortgage Assistance:
· ACRI successfully challenged the discriminatory policy of disqualifying same-sex couples from receiving state grants for home purchased in districts defined as national priority areas. In response to ACRI’s intervention, the Housing and Construction Ministry decided to provide housing and mortgage assistance to common-law couples – both heterosexual and homosexual. (2007)

Gays in the Police Force:
· ACRI has submitted a number of complaints against police officers who harassed gays, and against detectives who treated gays called in for questioning in an inappropriate and undignified manner. ACRI, together with the Association of Gays and Lesbians, met with the Police District Commander and succeeded in reducing police patrols in known gay meeting places and to conduct training activities to enhance sensitivity to the issue. (1997)

· ACRI succeeded in bringing about the criminal trial of a police officer who severely abused his authority in harassing and feigning arrest of a gay soldier, subjecting him to degrading and humiliating treatment on the pretext that the soldier had behaved in a criminal manner because of his sexual orientation. ACRI submitted a complaint on behalf of the soldier to the police department, as a result of which the police officer was convicted in Court of criminal abuse of his authority. (1994)

Right to Medical Treatment:
· ACRI successfully defended the right to medical treatment for AIDS patients and people infected with HIV. Following ACRI’s appeal, the Health Ministry revised the questionnaire which required patients undergoing medical examinations to disclose sexual orientation and activities to exclude these types of questions.

Public Outreach and Educational Activities:
· ACRI has provided expert legal testimony on a regular basis before Knesset (Israeli parliament) committees

addressing LGBT rights
· ACRI gives legal advice in response to hundreds of individuals who inquire about their rights through the public hot line, to attorneys litigating cases that concern LGBT rights, and to LGBT organizations.

· ACRI publicly protests offensive statements and discriminatory positions of public officials against the LGBT community. In 1992, for example, ACRI succeeded in preventing a Knesset member’s attempted cancellation of the first gay and lesbian conference in the Knesset.

· Both in its publications and educational activities, ACRI works to strengthen public awareness of LGBT rights in Israel. As part of its regular educational workshops for teachers, students, and youth, ACRI presents panel discussions featuring members of the LGBT community and highlighting the personal aspects of their struggle to live as equal citizens. In addition, ACRI regularly reports on the latest achievement in LGBT rights as well as violations in this domain in our annual reports.

· ACRI submitted a written demand to the Chief Education Officer of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to protest the suspension of publication of the IDF magazine following a cover story dealing with a gay senior commander who revealed his sexual orientation while pursuing a career in the military. (2001)

· ACRI is a prominent and vocal supporter of the annual Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance, and has undertaken legal action in recent years to ensure that the municipal authorities and the Israel Police grant permission to hold the Pride Parade. Each year, ACRI works intensively in the public arena to highlight the importance of holding the march despite the opposition it arouses to safeguard basic democratic and human rights principles.

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Categories: Democracy and Civil Liberties, LGBT Rights, The Right to Equality

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