Following a heated debate in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday, a bill that would grant same-sex couples with children the same tax credits enjoyed by heterosexual parents passed its preliminary reading by a vote of 44-20.
The bill, sponsored by MK Adi Koll (Yesh Atid) and a group of lawmakers, is meant to amend the income tax ordinance and grant same-sex couples a tax discount – called nekudat mas, or “tax point” – for their children, just like heterosexual parents. The partners would inform the tax authorities which one of them is to receive the benefit granted to mothers, and which one will receive the benefit granted to fathers.
Commenting on the bill on behalf of the government, Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) said the legislation was designed to ”fix an injustice and to allow same sex couples to benefit from tax credits.
”The (Hebrew) word tolerance comes from the word suffering,” explained Lapid. ”It`s not easy to accept that which is different from you. In this plenum there are haredi MKs and (MKs) from the Arab public who justifiably turn to us and ask: `Accept our uniqueness.` I say to them, `you cannot expect someone to accept your uniqueness if you do not accept his – even if you do not approve of his lifestyle.”
”Every individual has the right to ask `what concern is it of yours how I pray and with whom I go to bed at night.` No one is permitted to tell these people how to raise their children,” the minister continued to say. ”A person who fulfills his obligation to society also deserves rights. In the case of tax credits, they are given to people who pay taxes. ”
Lapid vowed that the bill will ”not go away, and it will be advanced in the standard process of passing laws, because it comes from the sacred principle that says every person has a right to live.”
The HaBayit HaYehudi party vetoed the bill earlier this month because it was opposed to language in the bill which gave legal recognition to homosexual couples.
In a deal worked out Tuesday night, the Yesh Atid and HaBayit HaYehudi parties agreed to pass the bill in its preliminary reading and then iron out the details when the bill is sent to a committee ahead of its first reading.
HaBayit HaYehudi claimed that after passing the preliminary reading the law was to be changed. The updated version, from which of all mention of same-sex couples was to be removed, would instead only authorize the interior minister to apply regulations giving gay couples tax benefits equal to those of heterosexual couples. The purpose of the bill, according to sources within the party, was to enable same-sex couples to obtain the tax rights but without providing legal recognition of same-sex partnerships.
Yesh Atid asserted that the law would advance as originally intended.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) asked Lapid if the government was committed to advancing the bill in its current format. Lapid replied that ”this law is going to the committee to be advanced there. The goal is to pass it in the second and third readings. I have no control over the committees.”
MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) called out: ”This is a fundamental question, and we haven`t received an answer.” MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) also demanded a clear answer and said: ”Why does this appear to be some sort of shady political deal?”
Gal-On added: ”Could it be that the HaBayit HaYehudi faction is not telling the truth about its agreements with Yesh Atid? Ayelet Shaked (HaBayit HaYehudi MK) and Adi Koll are not saying the same thing. We are being used as background for a dubious deal on the back of the LGBT community.”
Lapid said in response: ”How can I know how the law will come out of the committee?” But Gal-On insisted: ”I asked a simple question. Ayelet Shaked said there was a deal. The minister did not answer my question.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein intervened, saying ”this is a sensitive and important issue, and there was concern that there is some sort of scam, so I allowed Gal-On to ask. The minister did not confirm the existence of an agreement. I cannot summon Ayelet Shaked to respond on behalf of the government.”
In response, the Meretz MKs stormed out of the hall.