Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ruled on Sunday that Israeli law grants members of same sex unions the right to adopt their partner's children and thus be considered the legal guardians of their joint children vis-à-vis official State institutions.
Discussion on the matter was spurred by the Ministry of Social Affairs in order to discern the official State position in wake of recent legal rulings on the matter.
The discussion included officials from Child Services, members of the Attorney General's Office, officials from the Ministries of Social Affairs and Justice as well as from the State Prosecutor's office.
At the end of the exchange, it was decided that the term "partner" in Israeli adoption laws does include partners in a same sex union. At the end of the discussion, the attorney general ruled that members of same sex couples may adopt their partner's biological or adopted children.
Mazuz said that there was no legal prohibition on same sex couples adopting children that are not the offspring of one of the partners in the union. He said that requests by parties in a same sex partnership to adopt would be considered just like requests for adoption made by single parents. The principle of "benefit of the adoptee" or the suitability of the adopter with the needs of the adoptee will be the guiding principle in such cases.
Attorney General Mazuz emphasized that he was only verifying the legal permissibility of allowing adoption requests by same sex couples. He stressed that the official position in each request will be determined by Child Services' employees tasked with administering the adoption.
However, Mazuz also made clear that there was no room for unambiguous legal phrasing and that, according to the High Court ruling, the term "benefit of the adoptee" expresses "a multi-faceted, complex principle."
According to the attorney general, the sexual preference of the adopting couple is only one of many considerations and that "each instance will be examined in its own right."
This decision is one of a series of previous rulings Mazuz has made on matters concerning same sex partnerships.
In Feburay 2006, a court ruled that lesbian couple, Tal and Avital Yaros-Hakak, could adopt their three joint children, an act that effectively represented State recognition of the couple as mothers.
The ruling came at the end of a long legal battle, decided at the High Court last year. The Yaros-Hakak couple have given birth to three children through the help of anonymous sperm donations.
Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai of Shas) said Mazuz's green light for adoption by same sex couples was a "nauseating" initiative.
Yishai said that he "views the trampling and erosion of the family unit with great severity," and blamed the Justice Ministry for leading the "outrageous initiative," which he sees as damaging the status quo and going against coalition agreements.
Yael Branovsky contributed to this report