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Monday, September 27, 1999 Published at 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK


UK's lonely gay stance

The court ruling over gays in the military has highlighted Britain's isolated stand on the issue alongside other western countries.

The UK and Turkey are the only Nato countries to maintain an absolute ban.

The United States settled for a compromise after Bill Clinton's controversial attempt to overturn the ban, soon after becoming president in 1993.

[ image: In the US discharges have risen under a more liberal policy towards gays]
In the US discharges have risen under a more liberal policy towards gays
Its "don't ask, don't tell" advice bars openly gay people from the forces, but protects those who do not talk about their sexual orientation.

Military commanders are not allowed to ask recruits if they are gay and are prevented from initiating witch hunts.

However, since the policy was adopted in 1994, the number of discharges has risen sharply. Last year, 1,145 service members were discharged for homosexuality compared with 997 in 1997 and 617 in 1994.

New guidelines issued in August mean all military personnel receive anti-harassment training throughout their careers.

Nevertheless, the procedure has been called a "blackmailer's charter" and human rights campaigners continue to fight it.

One of those currently under investigation is Steve May, a Republican state legislator who is also an officer in the reserve forces. He made reference to his sexuality while debating a bill in the state house.

[ image: Steve May, under investigation because of his sexuality]
Steve May, under investigation because of his sexuality
In Germany, another Nato member, there is no ban on forces conscripts while volunteer forces operate on a case-by-case basis.

However, the defence ministry has blocked promotion of homosexuals to the position of officers or instructors.

Italy, where "national service" is compulsory, also has an irregular approach. The army takes a very independent line and the situation differs according to military districts.

In some, gays are excused military service on health grounds but in others they are openly accepted.

Countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Holland, Australia, Israel and all the Scandinavian states, do not discriminate.

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