Israel today is one of the world's most progressive countries in terms of equality for sexual minorities. In recent years, Israel has produced more progressive legislation and court decisions regarding sexual orientation and GLBT rights than many Western countries. Israel has an active gay community and it is by far the most tolerant Middle Eastern country towards homosexuals.

Politically, legally, and culturally, the gay and lesbian community has moved from life at the margins of Israeli society to increased visibility and growing acceptance. As is often the case with battles for social justice and equality, changes occur due to a combination of political, legal and social factors.
Israel Pride in NYC


Significant Dates and Developments

1988 - Knesset decriminalizes homosexuality
In 1953 and again in 1972, the attorney generals of Israel issued instructions not to prosecute for the commission of offences of homosexual intercourse between males, as well as numerous other consensual activities. The section in the 1948 Israeli criminal code prohibiting homosexual intercourse was eliminated in 1988.

1992 - Knesset prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace
In 1992, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1988 was revised to prohibit discrimination in employment relations on the basis of sexual orientation and marital status. Failure to comply with the Act incurs penal liability and the person discriminated against has the right to seek civil remedies (including punitive damages). This amendment is seen as a major step towards recognition of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as equal members of society.

1993 - Knesset establishes special sub-committee
Under the initiative of Labor MK Yael Dayan, the Knesset established a subcommittee on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual rights in 1993.

1993 - IDF rescinds regulations discriminating against sexual minorities
The IDF has never formally prohibited the inclusion of sexual minorities. Before the 1980s, however, an admission of homosexuality would likely be met with dismissal. From 1983 to 1993, the Israeli military officially approved the inclusion of sexual minorities, implementing some restrictions on their placement, prohibiting them from serving in sensitive intelligence positions (the rationale being that GLBT soldiers could pose a security threat because of vulnerability to blackmail) and requiring additional psychological testing.

Then-Prime Minster and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin officially abolished the restrictions in 1993. Official policy now mandates that sexual orientation no longer may be used to exclude soldiers from access to special information or from jobs that require access to such information. Homosexuals are subject to the same level of scrutiny for positions as are all other candidates, and cases of possible security risks are handled on an individual basis.

1994 - Supreme Court recognizes same-sex partner benefits in private sector
In November 1994, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision granting equal rights to same-sex couples. In the case of El-Al v. Danilowitz, the petitioner challenged the national airline's policy of granting free tickets to employees' opposite-sex partners, but not to same-sex partners. The Israeli Supreme Court held that this policy discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.

1997 - Same-sex partner benefits extended to public sector
The Tel Aviv District Court, sitting as an IDF appeals committee, ordered the army to recognize Adir Steiner as the common-law spouse of the late Col. Doron Maisel and to grant him benefits as an IDF widower. The couple had lived together for many years, shared finances and were known in public as a couple. The Court established that the army's policy, according to which only heterosexual couples qualify for benefits, was discriminatory.

This decision is seen as even more far-reaching than the Danilowitz ruling, which involved a private contract between a commercial company and an individual. The Steiner case affects the entire public sector in terms of GLBT rights.

1997 - Ban on TV discussion on homosexuality overturned
In 1997, Education Minister Zvulun Hammer sought to ban an educational television program on homosexual teenagers. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, joined by several gay rights organizations, petitioned the High Court to overturn Hammer's decision. The High Court ordered Hammer to permit the program to be aired.

2000 - Age of consent lowered
In November 2000 the legal age of consensual homosexual relations was lowered from 18 to 16. Thus, the law now establishes a uniform legal age for consensual sex applying to both heterosexuals and homosexuals.

2000 - Recognition of same-sex partner as adoptive parent
The Supreme Court recognized a lesbian as the adoptive mother of the four-year-old son of her same-sex partner, and ordered the Interior Ministry to register the adoption. Thus, the child is legally registered as having two mothers.

Same-sex couples in Israel now have many of the same rights as heterosexual couples. They have been granted legal recognition for the purpose of property tax benefits, inheritance tax and housing aid.

In Israel's cultural scene, the gay and lesbian community has also moved into the mainstream. Gay issues are regularly explored and represented in television, film, theatre, and literature. Most of Israel's gay bars and cafes are in Tel Aviv, which also hosts an annual Gay Pride Parade. In 1998, a transgender singer - Dana International - represented Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest and won 1st prize, bringing transgender individuals even closer into mainstream Israeli society.

2006 - Gay marriages abroad recognized in Israel
On 21 November 2006, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled 6-to-1 in favor of five same-sex Israeli couples who had married in Canada and sought to have their marriages registered in Israel, possibly setting a precedent which could allow other couples to do so.

Same-sex couples in Israel now have many of the same rights as heterosexual couples. They have been granted legal recognition for the purpose of property tax benefits, inheritance tax and housing aid.

Culturally too, the gay and lesbian community has moved into the mainstream. Gay issues are represented in television, film, theatre and literature. Most of Israel’s gay bars and cafes operate in Tel Aviv, which also hosts an annual Gay Pride parade. In 1998, a transgender singer - Dana International - represented Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest and won first prize, bringing transgenders further into Israeli mainstream society.