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Court lets lesbian couple be co-moms

JERUSALEM, May 31 (JTA) — Israel’s High Court of Justice this week ordered the government to register a lesbian couple as the mothers of the child they are raising.

The ruling was denounced by fervently Orthodox legislators, who called the decision degrading to the sanctity of the Jewish family.

The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 on Monday that registering the two women as the child’s mothers did not reflect a biological relationship to the child, but a legal status.

The Interior Ministry, which refused to recognize the women, had argued that it is biologically impossible for a child to have two mothers.

The couple, Ruti and Nicole Berner-Kadish, have been together for seven years and hold dual Israeli and American citizenship.

They currently live in Jerusalem, but will be going to Maryland this summer so Ruti can finish her studies. After that, they are not sure whether they will return to Israel or live in California.

Four years ago, Ruti gave birth in the United States to a son, Matan, after she was impregnated through a sperm donor.

Her partner, Nicole, adopted Matan under California state law.

In the majority opinion, Justices Dalia Dorner and Dorit Beinish noted that when an adopted child maintains contact with the biological mother, the population registry acknowledges both the adoptive and biological mothers.

Beinish wrote that the Interior Ministry’s argument that it cannot recognize two mothers for one child “is no more than camouflage for the argument against recognizing an adoption based on single-sex relations between the biological parent and the adoptive parent.”

Nicole Berner-Kadish said the couple, which was represented by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, based its case on the fact that Israel recognizes the legal standings granted citizens abroad, even if it does not permit such standings in Israel.

One example is its recognition of civil marriages conducted abroad, which do not exist in Israel.

In his minority opinion, Justice Abdel Rahman Zuabi said the couple should first have appealed to a family court to determine whether the adoption has legal standing in Israel.

Though the ruling was limited to the technical definition of the child’s registry, commentators noted the decision carried deeper implications regarding the recognition in Israel of single-sex unions.

The ruling was the latest in a string of favorable decisions by the high court on alternative relationships.

In a previous ruling, the court ordered El Al Airlines to provide the same benefits to the gay partner of one of its employees as it gives to married couples.

In another ruling, the court ordered the Israel Defense Force to grant bereavement benefits to the gay partner of a deceased officer.

Fervently Orthodox legislators denounced the latest ruling, calling it another example of the judiciary overstepping its bounds.

“We can’t continue to compete with the Supreme Court. If the high court wants to run the country and religious issues, then [the justices] should go to elections,” United Torah Judaism legislator Yakov Litman told Israel Radio.

National Religious Party legislator Zevulun Orlev said he would move to pass legislation defining the “Jewish family.”

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