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20 years since lifting of LGB military ban marked by Defence

The landmark ruling allowing military personnel to serve as openly lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) has been commemorated at the Houses of Parliament with the Minister for Defence Veterans and Personnel, Johnny Mercer, Minister of State for the Armed Forces Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Chief of the Air Staff Mike Wigston and General Patrick Sanders, Commander UK Strategic Command.

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Victory Building at HM Naval Base Portsmouth, illuminated with rainbow colours to mark 20 years since lifting of LGB military ban.

The Ministry of Defence has hosted a reception in a Thameside pavilion at the House of Commons on 9 January to pay tribute to LGB service personnel, past and present. 

Personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force, as well as defence civil servants, were joined by senior figures in defence to commemorate the ban on LGB members of the Forces being lifted on 12 January 2000. 

Royal Air Force personnel seen here on parade during the London Pride event

The anniversary will also be marked by military buildings, including the Ministry of Defence head office, Navy Headquarters and Edinburgh castle, being lit in rainbow colours and the raising of pride flags over the weekend of the anniversary.  

Victory Building at HM Naval Base Portsmouth, illuminated with rainbow colours to mark 20 years since lifting of LGB military ban.

While 20 years ago being gay would have earned a dishonourable discharge from the Armed Forces, since then LGBT personnel have been welcomed and supported, recognising the value they can bring to the organisation. As a result, all three services were recognised in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index in 2019, with the Royal Navy reaching 15th. 

Among many changes made since 2000, Civil Partnered couples now receive the same benefits as married couples, and since last year same-sex couples have been able to co-habit in all Service Accommodation. Defence has a LGBT+ Champion and a range of active military and civilian LGBT+ staff networks that support personnel.

MP Johnny Mercer

It’s a special day as we kick off a weekend of celebrations to mark 20yrs since lifting the ridiculous ban on LGBT+. To people serving in the military, I’m sorry for the experiences you had pre 2000; our Military is far better, far more effective, and better reflects our values, with you.

MP Johnny Mercer posted on Instagram

The Parliamentary reception hosted LGBT Armed Forces personnel past and present, as well as Stonewall and members of the Royal British Legion. This event is one of many being hosted throughout the year to celebrate the Ministry of Defence’s commitment the LGBT community. 

For many decades gay people were not allowed to serve in the military, until the MoD was forced to change its stance by a court ruling that came into effect in 2000. About four million pounds had been paid in compensation to those affected by the prior ban.

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