Israeli interior minister Gideon Sa’ar has said that gay and lesbian Jews will be allowed to bring their partners with them if choose to immigrate to Israel – even if the partner is not Jewish.
According to Arutz Sheva, Mr Sa’ar said: “The gates of Israel will be open to every Jew and his family without any discrimination against his lifestyle.
“I see no basis for distinguishing between heterosexual marriage married Jews, and Jews living abroad in same-sex marriages, according to the law. Both fulfill the purpose of the Right of Return, to ‘bring their children home.'”
Mr Sa’ar added that new legislation will not be needed to enact the change as he has written to Israel’s Ministry of Immigration and Absorption asking it to update its guidelines.
The decision comes amid debate in Israel over what constitutes a family, with pressure building on the Israeli state to allow gay marriage.
Education Minister Shai Piron said in June that “it was the right of Israel, perhaps even its obligation, to tell same-sex couples that they could not be considered ‘families.’ However, we would grant them full economic rights.”
His comments caused a considerable backlash, with Piron eventually having to backtrack. Israeli liberals criticised him for ruling out gay marriage, while conservatives criticised him for wanting to extend economic rights to same-sex couples.
Mr Piron, who is also an ordained Orthodox rabbi, said: “There is a constant tension between religious belief and liberal society. All I said was that it was possible to debate the question of ‘familyhood’ for homosexuals. I will not allow anyone to disqualify anyone for that standing, or for anything else, but that does not mean that the tension is not there.”
Issuing a grovelling apology, he said: “What most bothers me about this incident are the feelings of the children and adults I have hurt. I look at them directly and say ‘I am sorry.’ I am conducting an ongoing dialogue with the gay community, what any other religious leader is doing in Israel today.”