LGBTQ+ veterans demand apology, compensation for armed forces ‘gay ban’ era

LGBTQ+ veterans are seeking compensation and an apology from the prime minister for their treatment in the armed forces during the so-called “gay ban.” Although homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967, those who were gay in the military prior to 2000 faced dismissal, invasive medical examinations, loss of pension, and even imprisonment in extreme cases. Campaigners are now demanding compensation for loss of earnings and an apology from Rishi Sunak for the harm caused to the thousands affected by the ban.

Carol Morgan, who was 24 years old at the time, was forced out of her position in the Women’s Royal Army Corps due to a colleague reporting her relationship with her girlfriend. She stated that the experience “destroyed her completely,” ended her desired career, and forced her to hide her identity for the next 30 years, too ashamed to admit who she was. Morgan added, “I was humiliated. I was so young. They made me feel like a criminal. I was heartbroken, and it was the devastation of my life. They destroyed me as a person.”

Morgan shared that officers ransacked her room searching for evidence before interrogating her for six hours. After admitting to being gay, she was sent to a psychiatrist who, she said, “was only interested in asking questions about what we did in bed.” She described the experience as “the most humiliating time of my life.”

Morgan was finally able to come out as a lesbian four years ago, with the support of Fighting With Pride, an organisation that assists LGBTQ+ veterans. Executive chair Craig Jones MBE also served during the ban and came out on the day it was lifted. He stated, “In the late 1990s, I was one of the navigators in our aircraft carriers HMS Invincible and HMS Illustrious, and every time I came into port in that ship, I was looking down the gangway – not to see if the fenders and the lines were in place, but to see if there might be a police car waiting on the jetty to take me away.”

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Jones added, “There must be compensation because these veterans have suffered decades of hurt, and they suffer financial impoverishment, and that must find its remedy. But actually, this is a community that seeks to restore its honour. They deserve an apology on behalf of the nation, by the prime minister. They deserve individual apologies by the heads of the armed forces. They deserve to have their ranks restored. And they should be given back their berets so when we march at the national Service Of Remembrance past the Cenotaph, like all other veterans, to remember those that we have lost, they are able to do so with great honour.”

A report published this week by researchers at Northumbria University emphasised the long-term damage the ban caused to veterans. The study surveyed over 100 LGBTQ+ individuals who served before 2000, many of whom were dismissed following traumatic military police investigations. Key findings of the two-year study, titled Lost And Found, include:

• 82% of respondents underwent intrusive investigations, and 72% felt vilified and “treated like a criminal”
• 65% of LGBT+ veterans surveyed claimed it affected their employment and careers
• 56% stated it had an impact on their housing situation
• 84.4% of survey respondents reported feeling lonely

Lord Etherton has conducted a review of the experiences of those who served between 1967 and 2000, and the government is expected to publish the recommendations soon. 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.”

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Jamie Cartwright

Jamie is a keen traveler, writer, and (English) teacher. A few years after finishing school in the East Mids, UK, he went traveling around South America and Asia. Several teaching and writing jobs, he found himself at The Thaiger where he mostly covers international news and events.