Israel: Tax credits bill for male same-sex couples passes preliminary reading

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A bill designed to give male same-sex couples with children the same tax benefits as heterosexual parents has passed its preliminary reading in the Israeli legislature, the Knesset.

The bill, which was introduced by Finance Minister Yair Lapid and sponsored by Yesh Atid member MK Adi Kol, passed comfortably with 40 votes in favour against 20 opposed.

“[The law] comes to redress injustice and allow same-sex parents to also enjoy tax credit points,” Mr Lapid said.

At present, Israeli law provides better tax breaks for mothers rather than fathers. Male same-sex couples are adversely affected as they are entitled to lower tax breaks than heterosexual couples, where the female partner can claim the higher tax credits.

The passage of the bill has generated conflict within the coalition between the Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi parties. Bayit Yehudi vetoed the bill earlier this year after it objected to language in the bill which gave legal recognition to homosexual couples.

In a deal created on Tuesday night (December 24), the two parties agreed to pass the bill in its preliminary reading and work out the details during the committee process.

Same-sex marriages are recognised in Israel, but must be conducted overseas. Israel does not currently allow same-sex or inter-faith unions to be conducted domestically as only Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Druze religious authorities can perform the ceremonies, and none offer marriage to same-sex or inter-faith couples.

According a New York Times report, experts have estimated that over recent years a quarter of Jewish couples have left Israel to marry, or cohabit without marrying.

In May 2012, the Knesset rejected a bill that would have allowed same-sex and inter-faith civil marriage.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not offered a public position on the issue.

Earlier this year, a former Israeli Supreme Court chief judge urged Israeli lawmakers to legalise equal marriage, warning that the country’s marriage laws were “a clear violation of human rights.”