By Tomer Zarchin
A homosexual father of twins who were born to a surrogate mother in India is being denied permission to enter the country with his infant sons. The move stems from a family court's refusal to issue a standard legal order that would pave the way for the children to obtain Israeli citizenship.
For the past two months Dan Goldberg and his twin sons, Itai and Liron, have been staying at a Mumbai hotel, awaiting permission from the Jerusalem Family Court to proceed with a paternity test that would determine whether he is indeed their biological father.
Until the test is performed, the babies will not be granted entry into the country, nor will they be eligible to receive health insurance or medical treatments.
In dozens of prior instances, family courts have issued decrees requiring Israeli parents of children born abroad to undergo DNA testing to confirm they are in fact the biological parents - a prerequisite for the childrens' naturalization as Israeli citizens.
In Goldberg's case, the twin boys were delivered by a gestational carrier who had been implanted with an embryo from another woman. Goldberg cannot legally bring the babies into the country without permission from the court to perform a paternity test.
Judge Philip Marcus, unlike his colleagues on other family court benches, rendered a decision this past March in which he stated that he lacked the jurisdiction to issue a court order for Goldberg to take a paternity test. In addition to the Goldberg case, Marcus has also delayed issuing decrees in two other instances involving homosexual couples from Jerusalem expecting the birth of their children via surrogacy.
In explaining his decision, and as appears in the state protocol, Marcus stated: "If it turns out that one of the [purported fathers] sitting here is a pedophile or serial killer, these are things that the state must examine."
An appeal was filed on Goldberg's behalf with the Jerusalem District Court, yet a panel of primarily religiously observant judges agreed with the petitioner's claim that Marcus does have authority to issue an order for a paternity test, but ordered that a legal guardian be appointed to represent the minors, and that the case be referred back to Marcus.
"This is a state of contradictions," Goldberg, a 42-year-old Jerusalem restaurateur, said via telephone in Mumbai. "I'm an Israeli citizen, I served in a combat unit during two intifadas and I still serve in the reserves. I've also volunteered with the police for years. But when I want to realize my right to be a parent, the state kicks me to the curb."
No time to reflect
Each of the three prospective fathers who have been denied the court order for a paternity test requested the assistance of a clinic in India to begin the surrogacy process, over the course of the last year. Each also signed a legally binding agreement with a woman, an Indian citizen, who agreed to carry the child to term after being implanted with an embryo. The egg donor and the child's carrier renounced any claims to the children.
Late last year, each of the three men filed separate appeals with the Jerusalem Family Court to begin the process of confirming their paternity by DNA testing so that the children who were either born or had yet to be delivered would receive Israeli citizenship. After appearing before Marcus this past March, the three men were surprised when the judge ruled that he lacked the authority to issue the order - despite the fact that other family court judges had repeatedly done so in prior surrogacy cases.
Homosexual couples in Israel who wish to conceive a child via surrogacy primarily pursue this option in the United States and India. As the practice has become more widespread, the Interior Ministry issued a set of guidelines that codify the process of naturalization for the newborns so that they would be legally permitted entry into the country. In the case of male homosexual couples, because only one parent can be the biological father, the other is usually required to go through the process of adopting the baby in order to receive recognition as the child's legal guardian.
In his conversation with Haaretz yesterday, Goldberg sounded frustrated. He has so far spent $45,000 to complete the surrogacy process, after looking for ways to have children for four years. After two failed attempts at in vitro fertilization in India, he finally realized his dream.
Goldberg, who is struggling to get by while in India, has not been able to find time to reflect on the experience. "The cost of living here over time is exorbitant," he said. "Since I need to provide my children with a good environment, the hotel is reasonable. But they have no insurance, I can't get them the vaccinations that babies usually receive in Israel, and I can't afford the costs of medical check-ups.
"I've burned through my savings and I have asked foreigners to help me financially," he continued. "Other couples that came to Mumbai after me have already left India with their children - who received citizenship because they received the court order for the paternity test from judges who are not in Jerusalem.
"Let me wage this legal battle with my children in Israel, not India," he said.