MoD defends gay attitudes report

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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been quick to defend a survey which reveals discomfort is still felt towards gay and lesbian recruits served in the Royal Navy, particularly the Marines.

A survey from the MoD on attitudes in the forces found that almost half of sergeants, corporals and lower ranked personnel in the Royal Navy and the Marines feel uncomfortable serving alongside gays and lesbians.

An MoD spokesperson told that the results were not representative of the whole military, “These surveys reflect a small but statistically significant representation of our Armed Forces. This feedback is important and we use it to inform our policies to address any serious issues; as shown by the new £2,240 operational allowance and the priority modernisation of single living accommodation.”

The Continuous Attitude Survey aims to discover opinions of recruits in the armed forces on subjects of diversity, working environment and support. Recruits were questioned between September and October 2005.

Out of 405 Royal Navy officers, 38 expressed disagreement to serving alongside gays and lesbians while 203 out of 1,030 junior level naval personnel showed unhappiness.

There was significant agreement towards serving with gays and lesbians amongst Navy officers with 288 showing support, while 76 remained neutral.

Content was also shown by 533 junior level recruits, with 282 choosing not to give their view.

Results in the Marines were similar, with only 16 out of 96 officers disagreeing and 52 showing their support. However, in the lower ranks, 125 out of 295 respondents displayed negative attitudes towards working with gays and lesbians.

52 Marine officers showed agreement to serving with gays and lesbians, while 27 neither agreed or disagreed.

Out of the junior level Marines, 83 showed support, and 86 gave no view.

The results are interesting as the Royal Navy is a Stonewall Diversity Champion, meaning it has pledged to work towards a gay friendly working environment. It was the only force allowed to march in uniform at this year’s EuroPride event in London.

The MoD spokesperson said the Royal Navy is committed to a workplace free from harassment, “The Armed Forces encourage all people who have the appropriate aptitude to serve within their ranks, and no distinction is made on the basis of sexual orientation.

“Since the lift of a complete ban on homosexuals serving in the Armed Forces six years ago, we welcome the positive view from the survey that 83% of Navy personnel questioned “don’t mind” serving alongside gay or lesbians.

“Networks and conferences have been established for serving gay and lesbian personnel, the 2nd Sea Lord spoke at the Stonewall Employment Conference and personnel marched in uniform at London’s Gay Pride this summer. The Royal Navy also featured in Stonewall’s top 100 gay-friendly employers Work Equality Index last year and another lesbian, gay and bisexual conference is planned for Spring 2007.

“It’s also important to note that the Continuous Attitudes Survey reveals that Royal Navy officers and ratings’ morale is at the highest ever level and a high proportion of Navy Officers and Ratings believe that individual differences are respected in the Royal Navy,” she said.

A similar survey in the Army and Royal Air Force showed a large commitment to equality and diversity.

Openly lesbian and gay personnel have been allowed to serve in the military since 2000.