JERUSALEM: Israelis demonstrated and held a one-day strike on Sunday to protest a law denying surrogacy to gay couples, with some blocking a major highway in commercial capital Tel Aviv.
Protesters also blocked traffic in central Jerusalem and two were arrested, police said. The Tel Aviv highway was blocked for about 20 minutes.
Israeli media showed dozens of protesters at each of a number of locations throughout the country, including those shouting “shame” and waiving rainbow flags.
A large demonstration was planned for Sunday night in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.
The protest came after parliament on Wednesday approved surrogacy for single women or those unable to bear children — without granting the same right to same-sex couples or single men.
Previously, only heterosexual married couples were able to use a surrogate.
Around 200 companies announced they would allow their employees to not work to protest without it counting against their vacation days.
Sunday is already a semi-official holiday in Israel as Jews mark Tisha B’av, which commemorates the destruction of the two biblical-era temples.
“It is a symbolic measure, but one that shows real support,” Julien Bahloul, spokesman for the Association of Gay Fathers in Israel, told AFP.
Some companies said they would contribute up to around $15,000 to help gay couples forced to seek surrogacy abroad.
Bahloul said gay couples wanting to have children must find a surrogate mother abroad and the costs can rise to more than $100,000. Costs would be cut in half if it were allowed in Israel, he said.
Israel has been a trailblazer when it comes to gay rights, but same-sex relationships remain a taboo among religious conservatives who prop up Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government.
The premier relies on ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, both of which oppose families with same-sex parents.