Education Min. to Recognize Gay and Lesbian Youth Group

Education Minister Yuli Tamir will announce today the ministry's recognition of the Israeli Gay Youth Organization (IGY), at the organization's annual fundraising event in Tel Aviv.

The status of IGY, which conducts activities for gay youth and has some 1,500 members, will be equal to that of other youth movements and, like them, it will receive government support.

The Justice Ministry is expected to approve changes to the education minister's support regulations, thus enabling IGY to receive funds.

Tamir met gay-lesbian community activists several times in recent months and heard their request to cooperate with the ministry.

One of the criteria for receiving state funds is submitting a membership list to the Education Ministry, including identity numbers and addresses. However, the regulation was later changed in view of IGY members' potential fear of disclosing identifying details. Now it stipulates that when a list of members cannot be submitted for justified reasons and for special considerations, the organization would be considered on the basis of other criteria.

The Education Ministry also intends to increase the support mentioned in the regulations from NIS 200,000 to NIS 1 million.

Itay Pinkas, a Tel Aviv councilman and one of the initiators of the move to recognize IGY, said "gay youth groups have been operating for 15 years already but have not been recognized until now. This is a big step forward. It's not only the financial support, but having a girl or boy know that the Education Ministry recognizes their organization. Now they too can feel they have a place in the education system."

Pinkas said that some of the gay youth are reluctant to identify themselves not only because their parents may object to their activity in IGY but because their parents may not know their sexual orientation.