Israeli Supreme Court rules country must allow two mothers on child’s birth certificate

Supreme Court judges on Thursday unanimously ruled that the Population Authority must register female couples as mothers on the birth certificates of their children they have together.

The decision was made following a petition submitted by nine female couples, mothers of children born through anonymous sperm donation. The panel of judges, headed by Supreme Court President Uzi Fogelman and Judges Ruth Ronen and Alex Stein, rejected the Population Authority’s claim that the birth certificate reflects only biological parentage and ruled that both the birth mother and her partner must be registered as the child’s parent.

“The exclusion of the non-biological parent from the birth certificate means a preference for the position of the biological parent over parenting based on other parents,” Fogelman wrote in the ruling. “In terms of substantive law, the parenting of both parents — the biological parent and the non-biological parent — is equal and it includes the same basket of parental rights and duties. I do not believe that when at the level of substantive law there is equality between the parents, there is room to distinguish between them at the level of registration in the birth certificate.”

Fogelman also referred to the interpretation that may be given to the lack of registration on the birth certificate as “an offensive message according to which we are dealing with relationships that are different in nature and essence: while biological parentage is ‘real’ parentage, non-biological parentage is inferior and suspect parentage, a kind of ‘conditional’ parentage.”

The ruling does not apply to male couples because the petition dealt with couples who conceived with the help of anonymous sperm donation.

The ruling was issued as part of a petition submitted around eight years ago by nine female couples, who claimed that not registering the non-biological mother on the birth certificate deprives the child of rights that include acquiring foreign citizenship and petitioned the Interior Ministry and the Population and Immigration Authority to issue their children amended birth certificates that include the names of both mothers.

The Population Authority refused the couples’ request on the grounds that the birth certificate is a document that reflects the biological parentage at the time of birth, and is not updated with the passage of time. The petitioners claimed that the Population Authority’s policy violates the right to family life and the right to equality, since it discriminates against same-sex couples. And as evidence, they pointed out that when it comes to heterosexual couples, the Interior Ministry issues them corrected birth certificates — even in cases of adoption by the spouse of the biological mother or in the case where sperm donation is used for the birth of the child.

Fogelman accepted the respondents’ position according to which the birth certificate was intended to document the identity of the child at the initial point in time of his life. Alongside this, he rejected the respondents’ position that the birth certificate was intended to reflect biological parentage.

“A birth certificate is one of the most important documents a person has. It confers a basket of rights and is also used for the purpose of regulating citizenship in foreign countries,” said attorneys Daniela Ya’akobi, Hagai Kalai and Achinoam Orbach, who represented the petitioners. “For all these years, the state has insisted on denying children of two mothers a birth certificate that reflects the reality of their lives. The judgment of the High Court of Justice put an end to ugly and unnecessary discrimination, which has no purpose and never had. It is a great victory, but no man needs or wants to win his country. The time has come for the state, on its own initiative, to allow full equality of rights for all its citizens, including LGBT people.”

Aguda Chair Hila Peer responded to the ruling.

“This is a historic day when our families are equal,” she said. “For years the Interior Ministry has refused to register proud mothers on the birth certificate and now, thanks to the High Court of Justice, we are taking a significant step towards equality.”