Other Armies Accept Gays, But Many Remain in Closet With AM-Gays-Military, Bjt, AM-The
Other Armies Accept Gays, But Many Remain in Closet With AM-Gays-Military, Bjt, AM-The Military’s Side, Bjt
LONDON (AP) _ Gays have been openly accepted in the armed forces of many major U.S. allies without the controversy that now faces President Clinton. But many homosexuals in uniform still find it prudent to stay in the closet.
In the 16-nation North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, only the United States, Greece, Turkey and Britain still ban homosexuals in the military. Russia, Japan, and major Latin American nations also forbid gays in uniform.
In NATO nations France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark, gays are allowed to serve, but are disciplined if their homosexuality enters the barracks. The same holds true in Finland and Israel.
Foreign experience with allowing gays in the military could influence eventual U.S. policy. Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday that the United States should give special consideration to how the issue has been handled by its NATO allies.
Australia ended its ban on gays in the military in November, and controversy over the move died down a month later.
To some Europeans, the uproar over Clinton’s determination to end formal discrimination against homosexuals is baffling.
″Homosexuality doesn’t create problems at all. We don’t have the square view on the matter as the Americans have,″ said Capt. Michael Laustsen, a military spokesman in Denmark, where gays are allowed to marry and gay military spouses receive the same death and disability benefits as heterosexual ones.
But openly homosexual behavior still works against the gay soldier’s acceptance, even in the most liberal countries.
″The Swedish system is built on the fact that the individual keeps it to himself,″ said Swedish military press spokesman Bertil Ternert.
In Australia, no uniformed gays have declared themselves despite their new legal status.
″I’m not surprised,″ said Brig. Adrian D’Hage, spokesman for the Australian Defense Force. ″A lot of them are decent people who keep their private lives private and who want to get on with their job.″
D’Hage added: ″What people do off the base, off duty and out of uniform is their own business.″
In Finland and Italy, gay draftees can seek exemption from one-year mandatory military service, but few do.
As long as the soldier doesn’t disturb the atmosphere in the barracks or create a ″problem″ for colleagues, he can make the military a career, said an Italian Defense Ministry spokesman.
Homosexuals usually do not reveal their orientation and get by without problems, said Erkki Paukkunen, Finland’s military press chief.
The Netherlands’ military has an education program to foster tolerance and understanding that earned Defense Minister Relus ter Beek a medal from the nation’s leading gay advocacy group.
Yet Alex Sheerazi, spokesman for the union of conscripted soldiers in the Netherlands, said some gays may not want to come out of the closet because of the ″fairly macho culture″ of the army.
In Germany, gays are banned from holding leadership positions and each year there are a handful of disciplinary actions against homosexual officers. One company sergeant was recently demoted when he was caught having sex with a corporal on base.
Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Moshe Fogel said no sex, either homosexual or heterosexual, is permitted on Israeli military bases.
″The Israeli army is a reflection of the Israeli society, and it is rare that an 18-year-old would declare himself to be gay. At a later age, when the men do reserve duty, this is not so rare anymore,″ Fogel said.
He said gays are usually given psychological evaluations. But he said there is no discrimination, and noted that an openly gay colonel in the medical corps was twice promoted.
In Britain, there is growing opposition to the ban. In June the government dropped criminal penalties for homosexuality in the military.
″It takes place anyway, and in general it goes unpunished, so why not allow it openly?″ former defense secretary Denis Healey told the Daily Mail this week.
But in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, prospects for lifting bans remain dim.
Brazilian army spokesman Gilberto Serra said discussion on allowing gays in the service would take ″another hundred years.″
Eliminating the Venezuelan military’s ban on ″persons who suffer from this kind of deviation″ would offend the historic courage of Venezuelan soldiers, said Gen. Pedro Remigio Rangel Rojas, the army commander.