Thousands of Israelis took to social media over the weekend demanding the resignation of Education Minister Shai Piron over comments he made to a religious media outlet in which he declared that same-sex couples do not constitute families.
In an interview with Basheva newspaper on Friday, the education minister was quoted as saying: "I think that it is the right, perhaps even the obligation, of the State of Israel to say to same-sex couples who choose to live their lives together – 'This is not a family'."
In the interview, Piron, who holds the No. 2 slot on Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party list in the Knesset, also talked about proposals for a civil marriage bill. "Perhaps we should change the name to 'civil partnership' or to some other term that would not connote couples or families," the minister is quoted as saying.
The remarks set off howls of protest across Twitter and Facebook from users demanding Piron's resignation.
On Piron's Facebook page, Roey Alon posted a photograph of himself, his partner, and two children, asking him, "Dear education minister, what does this look like if not a family?"
"It's saddening that the education minister of the State of Israel makes such disgraceful comments," Alon wrote. "Perhaps someone should remind you that the central campaign of the Israeli education system this year was 'The other is me'."
Piron sought to defend himself from those angry over his remarks.
"I gave an interview to the Basheva newspaper over the issue of the tensions that exist between religion and state relating to the rights of the gay community," Piron wrote on his Facebook page.
"One may certainly disagree with how I phrased my remarks. Nonetheless, my statements reflect the reality in Israel and the difficulties of the religious community in coping with the changes to the family structure."
"Everyday I try to build bridges between various groups and constituencies," Piron wrote. "The first stage of building that bridge is acceptance and understanding. I believe wholeheartedly that everyone should be allowed recognition as a couple. I apologize for my statements if they were misinterpreted and if they caused pain."