President Clinton has officially ended the government assumption that homosexuals can't be trusted with national secrets.
Clinton, by executive order Friday, established the first uniform standards for U.S. agencies in granting security clearances.
Among the order's elements are requirements for wider and more frequently filed financial disclosures by those with top security clearances to monitor unusual accumulations of wealth. Those rules grew out of a review of the Aldrich Ames spy case.
But the issue of granting clearances to gays drew the most attention.
The rules formally eliminate a policy dating to a time when the United States was greatly concerned with the spread of communism. Gays were believed to be vulnerable to blackmail, and thus, security risks.
Although the policy had been relaxed within many federal agencies in recent years, it still was used occasionally by some supervisors, according to gay-rights organizations.
The non-discrimination clause covering access to classified material now reads: "No inference concerning the standards in this section may be raised solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the employee."
Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign Fund, called the order "an important step toward ending governmentally sanctioned job-discrimination against gay and lesbian people."
Robert Maginnis of the Family Research Council said in a statement that homosexuality raised a red flag in security clearances "because in all healthy societies, homosexuality is recognized as a pathology with very serious implications for a person's behavior."
The order, which does not require congressional approval, also would bar the denial of security clearances to employees solely because they had undergone psychiatric or psychological treatment.