Today [22 June], the Government announced that The Rt Hon The Lord Etherton QC will chair an LGBT Veterans Independent Review into the impact of the decades-long ‘gay ban’ in the military. 

 The review was launched in January and following the appointment of its Chair it will now begin its year-long investigation. Fighting With Pride, the charity supporting LGBT+ veterans, welcomed the announcement. 

 Joint Chief Executives Caroline Paige and Craig Jones MBE said: ‘ This appointment offers hope to the thousands of LGBT+ veterans whose lives were – and still are – affected by the ban. It has been over 22 years since the ban was lifted. Appointing a Chair to the review is an important step, but there is much work to be done to restore trust and to make meaningful reparations. 

‘We look forward to working with Lord Etherton and will do everything in our power to ensure LGBT+ veterans’ voices are heard, and that action is taken to address the appalling injustices many were subjected to. This review must bring hope of a better future for those who live with the consequences of the ban.” 

 

Sharon Hudson, Womens Royal Army Corps Veteran, said: ‘Being dismissed for my sexuality severely affected my mental health. I lied to my family for 40 years because of the shame I felt. I hope this review rights the wrongs for all those affected by the ban and we can feel proud to have served.’ 

 

Elaine Chambers, Queen Alexandras Royal Army Nursing Corps Veterans, said: ‘This review, if truly independent and conducted in a timely fashion, has opened a door I had thought was firmly shut. And it restores a cautious sense of optimism that at long last, some sort of meaningful restorative justice may be served.’ 

 

Tremaine Cornish, Army Commando Veteran, said: ‘Being cast out of the Armed Forces, on to the streets with no assistance, accommodation or support, had a catastrophic effect upon my psychological wellbeing, causing vicious damage to my self-worth. Many of us were left completely on our own, unable to return to our family. I hope this review can repair the hurt and compensate the loss and that its recommendations are honoured in full.’ 

 

 The Armed Forces ‘gay ban’ 

Prior to the ban being lifted in 2000, Armed Forces personnel who were thought to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender were arrested, searched and questioned by the Special Investigation Branch of the Military Police. After harrowing investigations, often lasting days, many were taken to military hospitals and subjected to degrading and shameful medical inspections. At Court Martial, service medals were ripped from their uniforms. Many served months in prison, for the military criminal offence of being ‘homosexual’. 

Thousands were kicked out of the Armed Forces due to ‘services no longer required’, or were ‘dismissed in disgrace’, with criminal records as sex offenders. They lost their careers and their pensions, and many were told never again to use their military rank or wear their uniform. Their names were erased from the ‘Retired List’ of personnel. In the process, many were ‘outed’ to family and friends, which meant losing them too. 

They suffered blighted careers, homelessness, estrangement, financial instability, unemployment and mental health issues. Some turned to veterans charities – but at the time, many would not help veterans who had been ‘dismissed in disgrace’. 

 

The lifting of the ban in 2000 

The ban was lifted on 12 January 2000 after years of legal wrangling, in which the Ministry of Defence and several senior Armed Forces personnel fought hard to keep it in place. The case was eventually won in September 1999 at the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that the ban broke the Human Rights Convention which safeguards the right to privacy. 

Twenty-two years on, the Government has begun to make some reparations. Last year the Ministry of Defence announced that veterans can reclaim medals that were confiscated and the Minister for Defence People and Veterans made a personal statement of apology, but despite Ministers pledging ‘recognition and recompense’ for the thousands affected by years of illegal prohibition, little has been done to address the wider impacts of the ban. 

fightingwithpride.org.uk

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