Two gay fathers in Israel were told by a government official that one of them would need to declare himself their twins’ mother in order to enroll them in daycare.
Guy Sadak Shoham, 33, and Chai Aviv Shoham, 38, described the incident to Israeli news site Ynet. They had applied for financial aid for their two-year-old twins to attend a preschool when a government representative called to check their availability.
"I understand that you are both fathers and understand that you both run a shared household, but there is always the one who is more dominant, who is more the mother," the woman told them, as translated from the couple’s report. “I am just asking for a written statement in your hand which of you is the mother. From the point of view of the work, which works less than the father. Like a normal couple."
The official acknowledged that there was no mother in the household but explained that “even if that doesn't make sense, we're subject to the Ministry of Economy's guidelines."
She added that the couple would not be investigated, so they could feel comfortable lying about the gender of one parent.
"It is mostly sad and a little disturbing,” the couple told Ynet. “These are concepts that we consider the past. We do not necessarily come up with allegations against this representative, she is ultimately subject to the guidelines and as she said, they are the state. It is also sad that the state's definition of a mother is someone who works less and is at home with the children, and that we must choose which of us meets that definition.”
In response, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs issued an apology and said that they would update their procedures and policies with their call center employees.
“We will emphasize that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs practices explicitly treat all types of families and grant equal rights to all,” the ministry wrote in a statement.
Ohad Hizki, the director-general of the National LGBT Task Force, told Ynet that was "an insufficient apology to change long-standing discrimination.” He said, “The Ministry of Labor and Welfare must sharpen its procedures immediately to prevent recurrence of cases of this kind, as other public organizations have been able to do.”
While Israel is less regressive than other countries in the region on LGBTQ+ issues, its laws still lag behind many other nations. Marriage equality remains illegal, and numerous adoption restrictions remained in place until 2017. Last year, a court ruled for the first time that same-sex parents could be listed on a child’s birth certificate. Same-sex parents are not allowed to use surrogacy programs.