Homosexuality in the British Forces – the official view

Posted: September 20, 2008 in British Forces, Homosexuality, Military, Research

In January 2000 the ban on homosexuals in the British Forces was repelled. The statement by Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP to the House of Commons, 12 January 2000 states:

As all personal behaviour will be regulated by the Code of Conduct with the object of maintaining the operational effectiveness of the three Services, there is no longer a reason to deny homosexuals the opportunity of a career in the Armed Forces. Accordingly, we have decided that it is right that the existing ban should be lifted. As no primary or secondary legislation is required, with effect from today, homosexuality will no longer be a bar to service in Britain’s Armed Forces.

Having done a lot of research over the years – and living with the living research object, so to speak 😉 – I thought some posts on the UK Forces’ Equality and Diversity Policy might be of interest. Here is the official view, I shall be posting about some insider view later.

(Flag image from MOD LGBT Forum website, for review purposes)

Thanks to the Freedom of Information ACT (FOI) the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is required to have all policies and documentation out in the open, unless, obviously, it is sensitive information.

Like in all European Armed Forces (please correct me if I am wrong) neither race, gender nor sexuality bars anyone from joining the Services. Granted, the UK Teeth Arms (fighting units: Infantry, Royal Marines, tank regiments, etc) don’t allow women but let’s not go there for now “on the ground of combat effectiveness”, that is a post for another time, oh yes.

Here are some questions from the MOD Equal Opportunities FAQ

Can homosexuals join the Services?
Yes. For more information please see the “Armed Forces Code of Social Conduct” and the “Unified Diversity Strategy”.

An explanation of the importance of these documents is given in the MOD’s policy on homosexuality (2000/01)

The “Armed Forces Code of Social Conduct” sets out a policy based on behaviour and whether an individual’s conduct may impact adversely on the cohesion, efficiency or operational effectiveness of the Service. In setting out this policy, no account or distinction is made on the basis of the individual’s gender or sexual orientation, which is taken to be a private matter for the individual. The Code of Social Conduct is based on an assessment of the potential or actual impact of social conduct on operational effectiveness and, as a start point, operates on the principle that the Services will only interfere in an individual’s private life where the actions or behaviour of an individual have adversely impacted, or are they likely to impact, on the efficiency or operational effectiveness of the Service. It therefore recognises an individuals right to a private life in line with the intent of Article 8 of the HRA.

Armed Forces Code of Social Conduct

Unified Diversity Strategy

I am a transsexual; is it possible for me to join?
Yes. There is no bar to the employment of transsexuals in the Armed Forces, subject to them satisfying the normal medical requirements.

Are you looking for applications from all ethnic groups?
Very much so. We want to see the Services reflect more closely the ethnic diversity of our society.

Last but not least, the legislation came in faster than Parliament had planned, because the MOD’s hand had been forced:

When the present administration assumed office in May 1997, it made clear that the policy would be reviewed in the lifetime of this Parliament. At that time it was anticipated that the Armed Forces Bill in 2000/01 would be a convenient framework for Parliamentary debate [and free vote on the issue]. However, following the announcement on 27 September 1999 of the judgement by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the MOD in the cases brought by four homosexual ex-Service personnel (Lustig-Prean, Beckett, Smith and Grady), there was an urgent need to review existing policy on the employment of homosexuals in the UK Armed Forces. The Court ruled that all four applicants had their rights violated in respect of Article 8, the right to respect for private life, and further ruled in the case of two of them that their rights had also been violated under Article 13, the right to an effective domestic remedy.

Information from Proud2Serve.

  1. […] professional – and personal – existence, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. I explored the official stance in a post. And there are doubtlessly instances where derogatory remarks such as “you hold your rifle […]

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