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LGBTQ veterans impacted by UK military ban to share experiences in government review

The government has launched an independent review into the treatment of LGBTQ service personnel who served under the pre-2000 ban.

2022-01-19

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Pexels

The UK Government is launching an independent review into the treatment of LGBTQ veterans who served during the pre-2000 ban on gay people in the military.

Forming part of the Veterans' Strategy Action Plan, which is being launched today (Wednesday 19 January,  the Cabinet Office hopes the review will also help them provide better support to those whose sexual orientation was a factor in their leaving the military. 

Recently, the account of one former RAF serviceman was read out in Parliament, detailing the abuse he suffered at the hands of colleagues for being gay before he was discharged because of his sexuality.

"My whole life changed"

Following news of the review, another RAF veteran, Dr. Carl Austin-Behan, who was dismissed for his sexuality in 1997, told ITV that he was called in for an interview and was asked if he had "homosexual tendencies". 

"For that split second I just froze and my whole life changed then. Because since 1991 I'd been in the air force. I was living a double, if not at times a treble life, because I was doing what society said was right.

"And even though I knew it was illegal to be in the airforce being gay, I didn't want being gay to define me."

Dr. Austin-Behan revealed he burst into tears and was told he could have faced military prison for six months. However, he was spared due to his exemplary record and suspended. He was given 15 minutes to be unceremoniously escorted off his camp and was unable to say goodbye to anyone. 

The joint CEO of the charity, Fighting with Pride, which supports LGBTQ veterans Craig Jones, called the 22-year wait for the review a "national disgrace" in an interview with The Press Association via The Independent, while also welcoming it is finally here. 

He adds that the review should ensure veterans get compensated for lost pensions, an apology is issued and investment goes into support services.

The charity tweeted: "there is much more to be done."

Details of how veterans can contribute to the review are not yet forthcoming but are expected to be confirmed once a chair of the review is announced.

Speaking today, Leo Docherty, the Minister for Defence People and Veterans says, "While the modern military embraces the LGBT community, it is important that we learn from the experiences of LGBT veterans who were affected by the pre-2000 ban. 

"This review will allow the voices of veterans to be heard and importantly will help us better tailor support to the community."

While Minister for Equalities Mike Freer says the government "is committed to righting the wrongs of the past," of which listening to veterans "will be critical to moving forward."

The review is set to look at the following:

·  The potential impact that the ban may have had on LGBT veterans, including their lives after the service.

·  How accessible veterans' services for LGBTQ ex-Service personnel

·  How the government can ensure that LGBTQ veterans are recognised and fully accepted as members of the Armed Forces community

Last February, the Ministry of Defence said gay men sacked for their sexual orientation could get their medals back. The historic ban on being gay in the military was not lifted until 2000.

Veterans should also benefit from a recent expansion of a scheme to disregard convictions from now-abolished offences.

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