Israel Further Liberalizes Policy on Gays in Military

The Israel Defense Force has issued new regulations banning discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the army, further liberalizing what was already a comparatively tolerant policy toward homosexuals.

The army did not in the past exclude gaymen and lesbians from the army, but the IDF has been accused of restricting homosexuals from jobs requiring high security, in addition to other discriminatory practices.

Under the new regulations, gay men and lesbians will be able to serve in any army unit, including those requiring the highest security, the IDF spokesman announced late last week.

Recruits for such positions will still have to pass the usual security clearance.

The new orders also apply to civilian employees in the IDF, the spokesman said.

The Israeli army has never asked recruits if they were gay or kicked out soldiers whose homosexuality became known. But prior to the new rules, it did order psychological examinations for soldiers whose homosexuality was disclosed.

That procedure will now be dropped, army officials said.

The new Israeli regulations come as the United States continues to grapple with the issue of homosexuality in its armed forces. In fact, a group organized by Congress came to Israel this past spring to study its policies.

The Israeli revision in policy is the result of a re-examination of army practices ordered by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who is also defense minister, following Knesset hearings on the subject in February.

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