Rishi Sunak Apologizes for Past Ban on LGBT People Serving in Military

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London (Parliament Politic Magazine) – The Prime Minister has issued a formal apology on behalf of the state, aligning with the recommendations outlined in a comprehensive report on the prolonged ban that affected the LGBT community. Rishi Sunak, commencing the final session of prime minister’s questions before the summer recess in the Commons, expressed remorse for the decades-long prohibition on LGBT individuals serving in the UK armed forces.

The ban, which persisted from 1967 to 2000, was thoroughly examined by Lord Etherton, the esteemed former master of the rolls, as part of a government-commissioned review. This investigation delved into the experiences of LGBT veterans who had bravely served their country.

Rishi Sunak Apologizes for Outdated LGBT Military Ban

The report, which was published on Wednesday, strongly recommended that Sunak deliver a formal apology in parliament. True to the report’s counsel, the Prime Minister fulfilled this obligation. Sunak revealed something important in his introductory remarks to the PMQs session. He states: “The ban on LGBT people serving in our military until the year 2000 was an appalling failure of the British state, decades behind the law of this land’’. He further continues:

“As today’s report makes clear, in that period many endured the most horrific sexual abuse and violence, homophobic bullying and harassment, all while bravely serving this country. Today, on behalf of the British state, I apologize. And I hope all those affected will be able to feel proud of the veterans’ community that has done so much to keep our country safe.”

Keir Starmer expressed his pride in the fact that it was a Labour government that had successfully repealed the ban, and he warmly welcomed the apology. During his statement, Starmer acknowledged the presence of Ken Wright, one of his constituents and a former RAF service member, who had unfortunately been compelled to abandon his beloved job solely due to his sexual orientation. Wright was present in the public gallery to witness the apology firsthand.

Rishi Sunak Takes Responsibility for LGBT Military Exclusion

According to a report from Etherton: “I recommend that the prime minister should deliver an apology in the UK parliament on behalf of the nation to all those LGBT service personnel who served under and suffered from the ban (whether or not they were dismissed or discharged).”

It is recommended that veterans affected by the ban should receive an “appropriate financial award,” with a maximum total of £50m. Additionally, it is suggested that the plan should not be subject to normal litigation time limits.

The apology was warmly received by Catherine Dixon, a former British Army Officer, who expressed her gratitude for the acknowledgment of the shame and humiliation she endured throughout her military tenure. Currently serving as the vice-chair at Stonewall, Dixon emphasized the significance of the apology and subsequent announcements in the pursuit of justice for LGBTQ+ individuals who served in the HM Armed Forces.

She, along with others, experienced the devastating consequences of prejudice, which not only caused personal anguish but also destroyed their military careers. Moreover, ‘’many were imprisoned, experienced corrective violence and lived with the stain of criminal convictions because of who they loved and which left some homeless and many unable to work’’.

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Rishi Sunak’s Apology on the LGBT Military Ban

The government has previously acknowledged that the treatment of LGBT personnel and veterans in the Armed Forces before the year 2000 was utterly unacceptable and deeply regrettable. Lord Etherton’s report has revealed that investigations into an individual’s personal life were not only intrusive and invasive but also had long-lasting and severe impacts on the lives of veterans and their families.

The review underscores the Government’s unwavering commitment to better understand and support its veteran and LGBT community. It also acknowledges the deplorable treatment they endured before 2000. In light of this, the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary have issued a formal apology in the House of Commons today, extending their remorse to all those who suffered as a result of the ban’s enforcement.

Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace said: I am pleased that this review has shone a much-needed light on a shameful and unacceptable historical chapter in our Armed Forces history. It is heartbreaking that the very tolerance and values that we expected our soldiers, sailors, and aviators to fight for, were denied to many of them.

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.