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Participants take part in the annual Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem July 21, 2016. © 2016 Reuters

This week, the Israeli government opposed a petition submitted by the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers requesting that common-law and same-sex couples be allowed to adopt. The government said that it opposed changing the law because adoption by same-sex couples would place an “additional burden” on the child.

“The professional opinion of the Child Welfare Services supports preserving the existing situation” that the adopting couple consist of a man and a woman, the brief said. The government takes into account “the reality of Israeli society and the difficulty it may entail with regard to the child being adopted.”

In short, the government is saying that social prejudice could negatively affect children of same-sex couples. But perpetuating discrimination in the name of child welfare is an untenable approach. Barring children from being adopted into loving, supportive families on spurious grounds is hardly in the best interest of the child.

There is in any case no real evidence to support the government’s concerns, and ample reason to doubt them. More than 70 peer-reviewed scholarly studies from around the world have concluded that children of gay or lesbian parents fare as well as other children. While providing a range of protections to same-sex people, Israeli law only permits adoption by same-sex couples in specific restricted situations, such as when there is a previous connection between the child and the prospective adoptive parent or the prospective adoptive parent is the partner of the child’s biological parent.

Israel is a member of the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC), an international coalition of countries advocating equal rights for LGBTI people. On June 6, the Netherlands issued a statement on behalf of all the 35 member-countries at the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The coalition said that there is room for improvement among member countries to achieve full equality for LGBTI people: “We stand ready to learn from legislative processes and other positive examples aimed at strengthening the protection and promotion of equal rights for LGBTI persons and to share our experiences in repealing discriminatory laws, improve responses to hate-motivated violence, and promoting legal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

There is still time for the Israeli government to reconsider its position. Keeping best practices in mind, the Israeli government should look at the 25 countries in the world that have already allowed adoption by same-sex couples, including the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Canada, and Spain, and reverse its decision to continue barring same-sex couples from adopting children.

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