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UK Foreign Office apologises for historic ban on LGBTQ staff

"People’s careers were ended, cut short, or stopped before they could even begin."

2021-07-05

Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: The FCDO Main Building in London (Wiki)

The British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has apologised for its historic ban on LGBT people working in the Diplomatic Service.

The ban - which was in place because LGBTQs were believed to be "more susceptible" to blackmail, an influential FCDO figure said today - was lifted in July 1991.

The FCDO currently employs over 14,000 people, including many officials representing the UK abroad. 

Sir Philip Barton, Permanent Under-Secretary at the FCDO and Head of the Diplomatic Service, confirmed the news in a Twitter video today.

"The diplomatic service undoubtedly deprived itself of some of the UK’s brightest and best talent"

In a message to staff, Barton said: “The ban was in place because there was a perception that LGBT people were more susceptible than their straight counterparts to blackmail and, therefore, that they posed a security risk.

“Because of this misguided view, people’s careers were ended, cut short, or stopped before they could even begin.

“And the diplomatic service undoubtedly deprived itself of some of the UK’s brightest and best talent.

“I want to apologise publicly for the ban and the impact it had on our LGBT staff and their loved ones, both here in the UK and abroad.”

The note continued: "In the 30 years since the ban was lifted, the FCDO has made great progress in becoming a proud and inclusive employer of LGBT people, and a champion for LGBT rights around the world.

“I pay tribute to all our LGBT staff - past and present - who helped secure change within the Diplomatic Service while representing their country with professionalism and dedication.

“I thank them for the contributions they have made, and continue to make.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “I am grateful to the UK’s LGBT diplomats, past and present, who so brilliantly represent our country and promote our values around the world.

“As co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition, we are working with 41 partner countries to tackle discriminatory laws and prejudice globally.

“The UK champions LGBT rights because we believe freedom and tolerance are a source of strength in communities at home and abroad.”

In 2017, a booklet on the FCDO's ban was foreworded by Sir Stephen Wall, a former British Ambassador who concealed his homosexuality for his entire diplomatic career.

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