Israel to consider extending tax breaks to same-sex couples

JERUSALEM--Despite fierce opposition from conservative and religious lawmakers, Israel's parliament is considering legislation to grant gay couples equality in tax benefits.

The bill would allow gay couples to claim the same tax deductions as heterosexuals. The existing rules for child-related tax credits favor mothers and single fathers, but deny the credits to fathers in same-sex couples.

The measure, proposed by lawmaker Adi Kol of the Yesh Atid party, part of the ruling coalition, was initially shot down by a ministerial committee that serves as a gateway for legislation headed to parliament. However, it passed the committee on Sunday and will face a preliminary vote in parliament later this week.

Kol said she welcomed the initial approval as a "clear message" that Israel recognizes same-sex couples as equal parents and a "legitimate family unit."

Religious parties have stopped Israel from enacting many of the anti-discrimination laws for gays and lesbians that exist in European countries and in much of the United States, including same-sex marriage and laws giving gay and lesbian couples the same rights to adopt children as heterosexual couples.

Lawmakers from the Jewish Home, another coalition party with conservative and mostly religious members, said they are concerned that Kol's legislation would be a step in a "silent revolution" that could upset the religious status quo.

Ayelet Shaked, the faction chairwoman, said the party would try to derail the bill, which she said would have "far-reaching implications for Israeli society and the nation's character."

The tax bill was proposed after Roi Mor and Eran Sikurel, two men who have a child, demanded the same tax break as a heterosexual family. "This is about our son's right to an equal starting point," Sikurel told Israeli media.