The government has today apologised for the treatment of LGBT veterans, following the publication of an independent review into the military’s pre-2000 ban on LGBT personnel.
The review, published in Parliament today, follows a formal apology by the Government, delivered by the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary. The independent review, chaired by Lord Etherton and co-commissioned by the Ministry of Defence and the Office for Veterans Affairs, examined the experiences of personnel between 1967-2000 who were impacted by the ban on homosexuality in the Armed Forces.
The Government has previously said that the treatment of LGBT personnel and veterans in the Armed Forces prior to the year 2000 was completely unacceptable and highly regrettable. Lord Etherton’s report found that investigations in an individual’s sexuality were intrusive, invasive, and for some caused long-lasting and severe impacts to the lives of veterans and their families.
The review highlights the Government’s unwavering commitment to understanding how best to support its veteran and LGBT community and acknowledges that it fully accepts that their treatment prior to 2000 was not acceptable. In recognition of this the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary have formally apologised in the House of Commons today to all those who were affected and mistreated in the enactment of the ban.
The scope of the review focused on three main areas, with the primary one being the effect the historic policy may have had on those impacted by the ban, including the consequences for their future lives. It also looked at the accessibility of veterans’ services for LGBT people and how to ensure that LGBT veterans are recognised and fully accepted as members of the armed forces.
Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak said:
The ban on LGBT people serving in our military until the year 2000 was an appalling failure of the British state – decades behind the law of this land.
As today’s report makes clear, in that period many endured the most horrific sexual abuse and violence, homophobic bullying and harassment while bravely serving this country.
Today, on behalf of the British state, I apologise, and I hope all those affected will be able to feel part of the proud veteran community that has done so much to keep our country safe.
Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace said:
I am pleased that this review has shone a much needed light on a shameful and unacceptable historical chapter in our Armed Forces history. It is heart breaking that the very tolerance and values that we expected our soldiers, sailors and aviators to fight for, were denied to many of them.
I am pleased we now have the opportunity to right those historic wrongs so that LGBT Veterans can once again take pride in their service.
Within the review are 49 recommendations, these include the restoration of medals that were required to be handed back on dismissal or discharge, the awarding of campaign and other medals that were withheld, the clarification of pension rights and the presentation of the Veterans Badge.
The Government has accepted the recommendations in principle whilst acknowledging that some may be delivered by different means. It is committed to working with LGBT Veterans to ensure that all restorative measures delivered are appropriate.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Johnny Mercer said:
This is a historic moment where we can reflect on the wrongs of the past but also recognise the extraordinary service of LGBT veterans who have bravely served this country.
The apology today is an important part of addressing the historic hurt that many LGBT veterans feel.
We’re also looking to the future as we learn from the past, including stepping up support services for veterans affected by the issues raised in this review.
Minister for Defence, People, Veterans and Service Families ,Dr Andrew Murrison said:
What happened was wrong. I want to thank people who testified for their courage in coming forward with evidence. Our job now is to study the review’s recommendations and say what we will do in response.
Since 2000, the Government has made great strides to remove barriers and deliver initiatives that improve the experience for LGBT personnel These initiatives include a guide for parents of LGBT children, delivering LGBT allies training and the provision of PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis).
And in establishing the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, the government has done more than ever before to ensure all veterans have the support they need when they leave the Armed Forces.
The review is an important part of the Government’s Veterans Strategy ActionPlan, where we committed to learning and addressing with compassions the historic hurt or disadvantage that sections of the veteran community have experienced.
The Government has also recently launched the extension of the Home Office’s disregard and pardons scheme to ensure that all those who were convicted of same-sex sexual offences can have their convictions wiped.
To support those affected by today’s announcement and the historic ban the Office for Veterans’ Affairs is awarding £250,000 to LGBT organisations to provide support services for impacted veterans. This is in addition to the £45,000 funding provided to organisations last year to help them gather evidence for the review.
Craig Jones MBE, Executive Chair, and Caroline Paige, Chief Executive of Fighting With Pride, said:
Finally the voices of those who have lived for decades in the shadow of this abhorrent policy have been heard and their truth told. Today’s apology from the Prime Minister recognises the suffering of veterans who met the challenges of service life but faced many cruel treatments from those in whom they placed their trust.
Lord Etherton’s report is a visceral account of the damage done and the opportunity for this Government to put in place substantial reparations. We must wash away the shame felt by these veterans and bring a just and honourable end to this unjust and dishonourable war.