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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 15:49 GMT
Israel's first gay MP enters parliament
Participants in Jerusalem's gay pride march in June
Israel's gays are adopting a more public profile
Israel has sworn in its first openly gay member of parliament in a landmark move denounced by the country's far-right parties but welcomed by the gay community.

Uzi Even
Even has promised to campaign for gay rights
Despite fears that ultra-Orthodox MPs would disrupt the ceremony, 61-year-old Uzi Even was appointed without incident, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is also said to have congratulated Mr Even on his appointment.

Mr Even, a chemistry professor, will sit in the Knesset for the left-wing Meretz Party, replacing Amnon Rubinstein, who is to retire.

Rights advocate

A former officer in the Israeli army, he caused a sensation in 1993 when he testified to parliament that the army had stripped him of his job and security clearance after they discovered the truth about his sexuality.


It's a symbolic act, I'm the one breaking the glass ceiling

Israeli MP Uzi Even
His testimony led the Israeli Government, under the late Yitzhak Rabin, to change the country's laws so that homosexuals could serve openly in the army.

In 1995, he also successfully won spousal rights for his partner from Tel Aviv University.

Mr Even has said that he felt his decision to come out had given many others within the gay community the courage to do the same, and has promised to use his position to fight for gay rights.

"It's a symbolic act, I'm the one breaking the glass ceiling," he said.

Growing community

Right-wing Orthodox Israeli MPs, many of whom denounce homosexuality as a sin, had criticised Mr Even's appointment as a disgrace to the Knesset.

But Yair Peretz, from the right-wing Shas party, told the French news agency AFP that he could tolerate Mr Even's appointment as long as he did not use his platform to make gay rights his "banner".

Israel has seen its gay community become increasingly entrenched in mainstream society.

In June, up to 4,000 Israeli gays and lesbians marched through Jerusalem in the city's first gay pride festival.

Homosexuality is not considered a crime in Israel, and a number of courts have even recognised the rights of gay couples.

See also:

07 Jun 02 | Middle East
24 Jun 01 | Americas
30 Mar 00 | Americas
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