Both women in lesbian couples can now be named as the mothers on their children’s birth certificates, Israel’s High Court of Justice has ordered. The decision, which is the result of many years of litigation, is being praised by the LGBTQ community as a historic victory.

People dance underneath a giant rainbow banner during the 21st annual
Jerusalem Pride Parade in Jerusalem on June 1, 2023

In his decision, Justice Uzi Vogelman ruled that the state could not give preference to biological parentage over legal parentage. Therefore women who have established their legal status as parents through adoption must be listed on birth certificates alongside birth mothers.

The petition was brought in 2017 by a group of nine same-sex couples who had children through anonymous sperm donation, after the government refused a request to amend birth certificates so both mothers appeared on the document following a legal adoption process by the second parent. The government had argued that a birth certificate reflects biological parentage at the time of birth, and therefore is a document that is “frozen in time.”

Justice Vogelman rejected the argument regarding biological parentage, writing that if, at the time of birth, the child had two parents, excluding the non-biological parent from the birth certificate would constitute preferential treatment to biological parentage over legal parentage. This would constitute “a harmful message… that while biological parentage is ‘real’ parentage, non-biological parentage is inferior and suspicious parenting, a sort of ‘conditional’ parentage.”

Justice Alex Stein noted that birth certificates should include options for “parent/parent,” “father/father,” or “mother/mother” pairings, depending on the family’s request. This, he said, aligns with the principle that “the state should be neutral in regards to the types of marriages and families that its adult citizens choose, and should not dictate one for them one monolithic option for relationship and family.”

“It was determined that there is no place for distinguishing between different types of parents in the field of certification when in the field of substantive law there is equality between parents,” the court said in a statement on the ruling.

Daniela Ya’akobi, Hagai Kalai, and Achinoam Orbach, lawyers who represented the petitioners, praised the ruling for “putting an end to ugly and unnecessary discrimination.”

For advice on family law issues and fertility law issues, contact Shirley Levitan.