Shropshire Star

Call for King to apologise for historical LGBT ban in armed forces

Service personnel were forced to leave the armed forces if identified as gay before the ban was lifted in 2000.

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The King is facing a call to apologise for the way LGBT+ people were treated by the armed forces prior to the ban on their service being lifted in 2000.

Campaigners are calling for greater compensation and recognition ahead of the publication of a Government-commissioned independent review.

LGBT+ forces charity Fighting With Pride and others are calling for the Prime Minister to issue a formal apology on behalf of the Government.

Duncan Lustig-Prean, 64, who was an officer in the Royal Navy but was dismissed when his superiors found out, and whose case played an instrumental role in overturning the ban, said the “time is right” for an apology from the monarch.

He was speaking to the PA news agency about his inclusion in a Sky documentary, called Forced Out, which tells the story of LGBT+ veterans’ experiences in the armed forces prior to 2000, and how key campaigners fought the Government to have the ban overturned, and how it has impacted their lives since.

Mr Lustig-Prean told PA: “While there have been individual apologies from service chiefs, from individual junior ministers, I want to see the Prime Minister apologise on behalf of the Government.

“And frankly I think the time is right – although it’s a difficult precedent for them to set – for the commander-in-chief himself, His Majesty, to apologise as the monarch, our commander-in-chief.

“After all, these were people who were prepared to give their lives for him and were treated in that way.”

He added: “It must be made clear that this historic wrong was an injustice, and that His Majesty recognises that these people had sworn their oath to him, to give their lives for him, in the service of their nation, his nation, and that deserves his apology in the light of a more modern society.”

Mr Lustig-Prean, who gave more than 15 years of service to the armed forces before his dismissal based on his sexual orientation in 1995, said he received “significant” compensation, of around £119,000, when his case was finally settled in 1999.

But he said he wants to see compensation for those who are yet to receive any, and for some to have their original settlements revisited.

Mr Lustig-Prean said: “There are a whole load of people who remain damaged, who have received nothing.

“And when you get it so wrong – when as a recent service chief commented that this stain on the history of our nation was allowed to continue and defended by the ministers and the services – you also need to say sorry for it, you got it wrong.”

Elaine Chambers, 62, co-founded the campaigning and support group Rank Outsiders in response to her own experience of being “forced to resign” from her role as a nurse in the armed forces when they found out she was a lesbian.

After a lengthy legal battle, she said she received £63,000 in compensation in 2009, but had to give £18,000 to her solicitors.

“After 14 years of legal battle I had built up debts of nearly that amount. So I ended up with very, very little,” she told PA.

She wants the review to lead to the Government providing additional compensation for the loss of her career, saying: “I’ve got to be brutally honest about it. I need and want some form of financial recompense.

“And I would like to have an Army pension, because I did serve Queen and country voluntarily and I was doing a blooming good job at it, and would have stayed on and would have carried on to fulfil my obligations had I been allowed.”

Stonewall’s director of communications and external affairs, Robbie de Santos, said: “For too long LGBTQ+ people in the armed forces were forced to hide who they were or face humiliating inhumane treatment.

“We must never forget the injustices that LGBTQ+ veterans faced for simply being themselves and urge the Prime Minister to commit to ensure they are fairly compensated for their hardship and for him to personally issue a sincere and genuine apology on behalf of the nation.

“This must also be backed up by a commitment to ensuring that LGBTQ+ veterans, and their families, are properly supported by existing services.”

LGBT forces charity Fighting With Pride’s executive chair Craig Jones and chief executive Caroline Paige said in a joint statement: “Veterans continue to live with the devastating impact to this day.

“An apology from the Prime Minister is a start, a sincere acknowledgement of thousands of lives wrecked when they’d simply wanted to serve their country.”

They added: “Words alone, whoever they’re from, don’t heal the wounds caused by fear, shame and brutal treatment because of a soldier, sailor or aviator’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Proper compensation, wiping unjust criminal records and payment for lost pensions are urgently needed. We’ve waited too long.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We are proud of our LGBT+ veterans and grateful for their service in defence of our nation.

“We can confirm that Lord Etherton has concluded his independent review and submitted his report to the Government.

“In line with the terms of reference we will carefully consider the findings and respond in due course.”

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said: “His Majesty continues to express his support and thanks to all members of the Armed Forces, in his new role as Commander-in-Chief.”

Forced Out is on Sky Documentaries and NOW from June 8.

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