The UK government has backtracked on plans to scrap a parliamentary debate on the treatment of veterans under the former “military gay ban”.
The debate is now set to be held in the New Year following intense criticism after it was initially cancelled, BBC News reported.
The ban on LGBTQ+ personnel serving openly in the British armed forces was lifted in 2000. However, before then, LGBTQ+ veterans faced discrimination, harassment and were often forced out of the military without pensions.
In July, an independent review detailing the ban’s damaging legacy was published. It included harrowing testimony from over 1,000 affected veterans. Subsequently, then-Defence Secretary Ben Wallace promised a debate would be held in parliament on potential reparations.
“Homophobes must have the ear of the prime minister”
Yet, earlier this month, it was reported the government had decided to issue a statement rather than hold the debate. This prompted outrage from groups like Fighting With Pride, who labelled it an “unacceptable act of erasure.” David Bonney, an RAF veteran imprisoned in 1995 for being gay, also hit out. He told BBC News that “homophobes must have the ear of the prime minister.”
The session scheduled for 2024 will focus on what amends can be made to impacted veterans. Additionally, veterans affected are now able to formally register interest in applying for financial compensation schemes. Further details are expected to be announced next year.
In a statement, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said the abusive treatment of LGBTQ+ personnel was “unacceptable” and vowed to “continue to right the wrongs of the past.”
While the government warns it won’t be able to “write a blank cheque”, some military charities contend more should be done. In an open letter to the prime minister this week, groups including The Royal British Legion stated:
“We remain concerned that an arbitrary cap on the total amount that will be offered in compensation is unfair… we owe it to them to recognise the sacrifices they made and compensate them for the harms they endured.”