LGBT review will hear veterans' voices on pre-2000 gay ban, defence minister says

The Government says it will learn from the experiences of former personnel who were discharged for their sexuality.

An independent review has been launched into the experiences of LGBT military members who served before a ban on gay personnel was lifted.

The Government says it has already taken steps in returning medals to those who were stripped of formal recognition within the Armed Forces, but wants to take lessons from the review forward.

Many personnel were discharged from the services before the year 2000, once their sexuality had been revealed.

The impact of the ban on their lives, including access to veterans' services, will play a lead role in the review.

It forms part of the Government's Veterans' Strategy Action Plan but is also hoped to guide defence toward a culture of total LGBT acceptance.

The move comes shortly after Home Secretary Priti Patel increased the scope for the disregard scheme, to include more individuals who had previously suffered for their sexuality.

Craig Jones, now Joint CEO of Fighting With Pride, joined the Royal Navy in 1989.

He said: "In the late 1990s, I was the deputy navigator of the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible. Every time I brought that ship into port, I was looking on the jetty to see if there were policemen there.

"It put you under immense stress.

"I had to hide from the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police because if I'd been caught, in 1995, I would have been sent to prison."

Kevin Bazeley was an officer in the RAF, until one day, coming off a sortie, he was met by his Commanding Officer and marched away.

He told Forces News: "Everything that I’d ever hoped and dreamed, all my aspirations career-wise, I just saw them all disappearing in a puff of smoke."

The Government hopes to learn from the experiences of former personnel. (Picture: Alamy).
The Government hopes to learn from the experiences of former personnel (Picture: Alamy).

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Leo Docherty said: "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."

Minister for Equalities Mike Freer said the Government is "committed to righting the wrongs of the past".

Craig Jones MBE and Caroline Paige, joint CEOs of Fighting With Pride (FWP), welcomed the review, saying "In the course of this review the Independent Chair will hear accounts from veterans whose lives were shattered by criminal convictions, prison sentences and dismissal in disgrace, and of the enduring impact on those lives. 

"Thousands more ended careers prematurely through administrative or other routes. FWP looks forward to working with Government to achieve an honourable outcome for LGBT+ veterans."