The fact that the Interior Ministry's Population Administration prevents the spouses of gay Israelis from obtaining citizenship is a clear and outrageous case of discrimination. And the authority's reasons for this rule, as given to Haaretz reporter Dana Weiler-Polak on Wednesday, reflect a primitive attitude.

Because of this attitude, the state doesn't recognize same-sex marriages for the purpose of obtaining citizenship, because they don't "meet [Israel's] criteria for marriage." Nevertheless, it makes sure to collect taxes and national insurance payments from these couples as if they were married.

In other words, when it comes to their obligations to the state, gay couples are considered married in every respect. But when it comes to their rights, they are defined merely as "maintaining a joint household."

This is an unacceptable double standard, characteristic of the darkest regimes. Gay couples are entitled to full recognition by the establishment. All discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegitimate, because it violates a fundamental liberty: a person's right to choose his own life partner without interference from the state.

The Population Administration's primitive rule also creates unnecessary complications, especially for couples who are raising children. Should the Israeli spouse die, for instance, the remaining spouse may well lose his children. Because he isn't an Israeli citizen, he can't adopt them, and therefore he won't be recognized as the parent, even if he is the one who raised them.

Last May, the prime minister boasted to the U.S. Congress that Israel - unlike every other country in the Middle East - grants full acceptance to the gay-lesbian community. But his boasts are belied by the fact that the state has entrusted decisions about every Israeli's personal status to an ultra-Orthodox monopoly that is becoming ever more extreme.

Thousands of Israeli couples are forced to marry overseas or live as common-law spouses because of the ongoing capitulation by successive Israeli governments to the rule of the rabbinical establishment. Given this reality, it's hard to even imagine the state granting full recognition to the rights of same-sex couples.

For all the live-and-let-live openness of Israel's public - especially in Tel Aviv, recently voted the world's best destination for gay travelers - the establishment is becoming ever more closed-minded. It is embittering the lives of all its citizens, and even more so the lives of those seeking to become its citizens.