An Israeli couple is speaking out after a seemingly mundane government application led to a shocking, allegedly discriminatory question.
Guy Sadaka and Hai Aviv, who are gay, have been together for 12 years, NBC News reported. The pair has been trying to enroll their 2-year-old twins in preschool, and last week they applied for tuition assistance through the Israeli government.
That decision led to them receiving a phone call from the country's Ministry of Labor and Social Services last Wednesday. During the call, a representative for the agency told the men that one of them would have to declare himself the twins' "mother" on their tuition paperwork, the Israeli news site Ynet reported.
Sadaka said the representative on the phone claimed one of them likely worked less than the "father" in the relationship, pressing the couple to compare themselves to a "normal family."
"I understand that you are both fathers and that you run a shared household, but there is always the one who is more dominant, who is more ‘the mother,'" the agent said, according to Sadaka.
Both Aviv and Sadaka were stunned by the request. Sadaka said the agent was understanding of the situation, claiming she was forced to follow a strict set of government guidelines. She ultimately told the couple, "Don’t think about it too much," advising them that it wouldn't matter what answer they gave.
“It kind of made me laugh," Sadaka, 33, told NBC News. "But this ignorance in a government office when it’s just about 2020 just seems crazy to me. I felt frustrated that I have to give answers that don’t make any sense."
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs apologized within hours of the original phone call, telling Aviv and Sadaka it would process their application "immediately" and promising to reevaluate its policies.
"We emphasize that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs’ practices explicitly treat all types of families and grant equal rights to all," a representative for the agency said in a statement.
Sadaka said this type of discrimination is rare for his family, who live in Tel Aviv. Still, he told NBC News that their circumstances could be worse in a less LGBTQ-friendly city.
"Outside Tel Aviv, it’s not the same situation," he said. "And even in the city, there are landlords who won’t rent to gay couples."
Still, there are many legal hurdles facing LGBTQ individuals in the country. For example, same-sex marriage is not permitted within Israel. However, the country does legally recognize same-sex ceremonies performed abroad.
Additionally, adoption rights for same-sex couples have long been an issue in the nation, which has caused a multi-year battle within the country's highest courts. Between 2008 and 2017, only three same-sex couples were approved for adoption in Isreal.
"As long as the religious parties still control the government, we won’t see a real change," Sadaka told NBC News.