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Anti-gay armed forces laws set to be officially removed

By WMNDavidWells  |  Posted: January 11, 2016

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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

Read more: http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Anti-gay-armed-forces-laws-set-officially-removed/story-28505362-detail/story.html#ixzz3x1a13qaM
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Commonwealth Legacy Laws

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Peers: The UK must do more to address legacy of Commonwealth anti-gay laws

Commonwealth

Members of the House of Lords have urged the government to take a stronger line against the vast number of British colonial-era laws criminalising homosexuality that remain in force around the world.

The Lords today held a debate on global LGBT rights, amid a worsening situation for LGBT people across many parts of the world.

Many raised the question of British colonial legacy – with archaic penal codes and laws criminalising gay sex still in effect across the vast majority of the Commonwealth.

Lib Dem peer Lord Scriven, who wrote for PinkNews earlier today, told the Lords chamber: “Out of the 53 countries of the Commonwealth, where we should have much more influence on this issue than we do, 42 criminalise same-sex relationships.

“Two in particular—Brunei and a state in northern Nigeria—have the death penalty for same-sex relationships.

“What pressure are we putting on Nigeria and Brunei, and other countries outside the Commonwealth, that have the death penalty? That death penalty is for one thing—loving the person whom you naturally love. What action will be taken against those countries?”

Lord Fowler, Thatcher’s former Health Minister, said: “75 countries around the world have criminal laws against homosexuality. Forty out of the 53 members of the Commonwealth criminalise same-sex relationships; 90% of Commonwealth citizens live under such a law.

“[Progress in the UK] gives us an opportunity to try to change the climate of opinion, here and overseas. It gives us that opportunity because we are often blamed for introducing the anti-gay laws in the first place, apparently without anyone understanding that the position here has radically changed.”

Lord Smith of Finsbury – who was Labour’s first openly gay British MP before elevation to the Lords, said: “40 of its 53 countries discriminate in legislation against homosexuality… [and in a] peculiar kind of way we are responsible for that.

“These are frequently relics of colonial laws that were imposed by Britain. There is an ultimate perversity in all this because many Commonwealth countries claim that homosexuality and liberal attitudes to it are a colonial imposition on them, whereas in fact it is the laws discriminating against homosexuality that are the colonial imposition.

“We have something of a special responsibility to make our voice heard around the world on this issue.”

Lib Dem peer Baroness Barker also raised Commonwealth issues – suggesting that LGBT issues are put on the table ahead of  November’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta.

 

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Information:

The commonwealth as we now recognise it, was formed in 1949, and is acknowledged as being one of the oldest political association of states.

Membership today is based on free and equal voluntary co-operation. The last two countries to join The Commonwealth – Rwanda and Mozambique – have no historical ties to the British Empire. 

The report ‘International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia‘ states that …Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Commonwealth citizens remain victims of stigma and discrimination in many of our communities…

Further reading:

 

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