The UK’s government has apologised over what it called, “egregious” policies that banned gay and lesbian people from working in the armed forces.
The government issued a formal apology for the mistreatment of LGBT veterans, following the release of an independent review investigating the military’s ban on LGBT personnel before 2000.
The review, presented in Parliament, was initiated by the Ministry of Defence and the Office for Veterans Affairs and chaired by Lord Etherton. Its focus was to examine the experiences of individuals affected by the ban on homosexuality in the Armed Forces between 1967 and 2000.
Unacceptable and regrettable
Previously, the government acknowledged that the treatment of LGBT personnel and veterans before 2000 was completely unacceptable and regrettable. The report by Lord Etherton revealed that investigations into individuals’ sexuality were intrusive and invasive, resulting in severe and long-lasting impacts on the lives of veterans and their families.
The government’s unwavering commitment to supporting veterans and the LGBT community was highlighted in the review. The Prime Minister and Defence Secretary offered a formal apology in the House of Commons today to all those who suffered under the ban.
The review focused on three main areas: the impact of the historical policy on affected individuals and their future lives, the accessibility of veterans’ services for LGBT people, and the full recognition and acceptance of LGBT veterans as valued members of the armed forces.
Sunak expressed deep remorse
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed deep remorse, acknowledging that the ban on LGBT individuals serving in the military until 2000 was a failure of the British state, lagging far behind the country’s laws. He recognized the immense suffering endured by many who faced sexual abuse, violence, and homophobic bullying while courageously serving their nation.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace was pleased that the review shed light on a shameful chapter in the Armed Forces’ history, acknowledging the denial of tolerance and values to many who served.
Restoring medals, pension rights
Within the review, 49 recommendations were made, including the restoration of withheld medals, clarification of pension rights, and the presentation of the Veterans Badge, among others. The government accepted these recommendations in principle and committed to collaborating with LGBT veterans to ensure the appropriate implementation of restorative measures.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Johnny Mercer viewed the apology as a historic moment to address past wrongs and honor the extraordinary service of LGBT veterans. He also emphasized the need to enhance support services for veterans impacted by the issues raised in the review.
Minister for Defence, People, Veterans, and Service Families, Dr. Andrew Murrison, acknowledged the wrongdoing and pledged to study the review’s recommendations to determine the government’s response.
Since 2000, the government has made significant strides in removing barriers and implementing initiatives to improve the experience of LGBT personnel. These include providing guides for parents of LGBT children, delivering LGBT allies training, and offering Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
The establishment of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs has also expanded support for all veterans as they transition out of the Armed Forces.
The review is a crucial part of the Government’s Veterans Strategy Action Plan, demonstrating its commitment to compassionately address historical hurt and disadvantage experienced by sections of the veteran community.
Furthermore, the government has extended the Home Office’s disregard and pardons scheme to ensure the expungement of convictions for same-sex sexual offences.
To support those impacted by the ban and today’s announcement, the Office for Veterans’ Affairs is providing £250,000 to LGBT organizations for offering support services to affected veterans. This is in addition to the £45,000 funding provided last year to help gather evidence for the review.
Craig Jones MBE, Executive Chair, and Caroline Paige, Chief Executive of Fighting With Pride, expressed relief that the voices of those who suffered under this abhorrent policy are finally heard and their truth acknowledged. They view the government’s apology as a significant step toward providing substantial reparations and ending this unjust and dishonourable chapter in history.