Anti-gay armed forces laws set to be officially removed

By WMNDavidWells  |  Posted: January 11, 2016


Existing rules state that engaging in a homosexual act can constitute grounds for discharging a member of the armed forces.

And while the policy was abandoned in 2000, it still technically exists in law.

But MPs have agreed to change that as the Armed Forces Bill cleared its final House of Commons hurdle.

A Government amendment to get rid of the relevant discriminatory laws was added to the Bill unopposed.

Defence Minister Mark Lancaster said the existing rules are “inconsistent with the department’s current policies and the Government’s equality and discrimination policies more generally”.

Mr Lancaster said when the provisions were originally put in place it was government policy that homosexuality was “incompatible with service in the armed forces” and therefore people who “engaged in homosexual activity were administratively discharged”.

But since 2000 “these provisions have had no practical effect and they are therefore redundant”.

“These provisions in no way reflect the position of today’s armed forces,” he said.

“We are proud in defence of the progress we have made since 2000 to remove policies that discriminated against homosexual men, lesbians and transgender personnel so that they can serve openly in the armed forces.”

He added: “This amendment is a practical step which shows that this Government is serious about our commitment to equality in this area.”

The shadow defence minister Toby Perkins welcomed the move.

He said: “Removing this from the statute book will be a welcome step forward so that the explicit refusal to discriminate against homosexual service men and women is expunged from the service book just as it has in practice been outlawed.

“It is very clear that this is an important step forward and it is one we welcome very strongly.”

Meanwhile, the SNP’s shadow armed forces spokeswoman Kirsten Oswald also backed the amendment.

She said: “It is scarcely credible that we are discussing this in 2016. It is discriminatory and it is offensive that this provision exists.

“Notwithstanding the fact that it hasn’t been used in reality for a number of years, it is most welcome that the Government are finally removing the provision as they should.”

The Armed Forces Bill legislates for the UK to keep its Army during peace time.

The latest version contains provisions relating to armed forces pensions and to the powers of Ministry of Defence fire fighters.

The Bill will now proceed to the House of Lords for further scrutiny

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UK armed forces recruits to be asked if they are gay

Move introduced in bid to foster greater tolerance within the military, but recruits will be allowed to ‘prefer not to say’

  • The Guardian,
British troops
The British armed forces only allowed gay soldiers to openly serve in 2000. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Archive/Press Association Ima

Recruits to the British armed forces will be asked whether they are gay in a move to improve diversity in the military.

Details of the service personnel’s sexual preference will be stored, and recruits will have the option to “prefer not to say”. The measure has been introduced in a bid to foster greater tolerance within the armed forces, which have allowed gay soldiers to openly serve since 2000.

Recruits will also be invited to provide additional information on how open they feel they can be regarding their sexual orientation. The information will not be visible on individual personal records or to chain of command or managers, and will be anonymised before being collated to ensure no one can be identified by their personal diversity information.

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman said: “The MoD proudly encourages diversity at all levels. Service personnel are now encouraged to declare their sexual orientation. Although this is not mandatory, collecting this data will give us a better understanding of the composition of our armed forces and help ensure our policies and practices fully support our personnel.”

This move to encourage recruits to declare their sexual orientation was introduced last November. The armed forces said it believed the new policy would shed new light on its workforce and help create a more inclusive organisation.