Israel will legalise surrogacy for gay couples and has begun to issue passports for babies born via surrogacy abroad, ministers have announced.

Currently, surrogacy is only legal for married couples, meaning that all same-sex couples have to travel abroad if they want to use a surrogate.

However, under the changes, it will become legal for individuals and unmarried couples to access surrogacy services inside Israel, allowing same-sex couples access for the first time.

The country has also controversially begun issuing passports to babies born to gay couples via surrogates in Thailand.

According to Thai law, babies born to Thai surrogates are Thai citizens, and removing them from the country is considered kidnapping.

Nissim Ben Sheetrit, the Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said: “Despite the complex political situation in Thailand, we reached an agreement in which the mother can come to the Israeli embassy with a signed letter saying she is giving up the baby. Any couple who can do that will get a passport immediately.”

Gay politician Nitzan Horowitz told the Jerusalem Post: “These couples went to Thailand because Israel doesn’t allow same-sex couples to use surrogates. [Homosexuals] are also pushed to the bottom of the list for adoption.”

“Someone in Israel decided to be stricter than any other country. What’s good enough for other civilized countries should be good enough for Israel.”

There has been conflict over gay rights in Israel’s ruling coalition. Last year, the Bayit Yehudi party vetoed the bill earlier this year after it objected to language in the bill which gave legal recognition to homosexual couples.

Last month, a bill allowing for same-sex civil marriage was defeated in the Israeli Knesset.

Also last month, the Israeli Tax Authority issued instructions that same-sex couples with children should receive child tax benefits immediately.