Until 2007, Israel was the only country in the Middle East and all of Asia to protect homosexuals under its anti-discrimination law. It is still the only country in the Middle East to do so. Israel, Turkey, Cyprus and Jordan are the only nations in the region where homosexuality is not expressly illegal. In other Middle Eastern nations, homosexuals are prosecuted under the law and persecuted by their neighbors. In some of these countries, such as Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is punishable by death.
Israel is even more progressive than the United States and some European countries in regard to gay rights:
- In 1992, Israel passed a law preventing discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation.
- In contrast to the United States military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, openly gay Israelis can serve in the Israeli Defense Forces.
- In 2006, Israel became the only nation in the Middle East and Asia to formally recognize same-sex marriages performed in other countries.
- Israelis can also legally adopt the children of their same-sex partner.
- Foreign partners of gay Israeli citizens are granted residency permits in Israel and same-sex partners are eligible for spousal benefits, pensions and tax exemptions.
- Gay Palestinians have fled to Israel to escape persecution in the Palestinian Authority.
These points represent a solid basis upon which Israel advocates and gay rights advocates can work together to create campus programming that advances both causes under the umbrella of human rights.