British army claims having openly gay soldiers has ‘increased productivity’

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Following the defeat of a vote in the US Senate to debate ending the US army’s Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy, the British army claims that allowing gay and lesbians to openly served has improved the armed forces.

Last week, primarily Republican US senators voted to block a debate into gay and lesbian people being able to serve openly in the military. A minimum of 60 senators were required to be in favour of overturning a filibuster of the ‘defence authorisation bill’ which includes the repeal of the US military ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy by senator John McCain but only 56 senators voted in favour. Although some of the senators who voted against did so because of an immigration amendment ‘tacked’ onto the bill.

The vote came after a high-profile campaign by the singer Lady Gaga which included her wearing a dress made from meat at the MTV Video Music Awards and posting a video message to YouTube where she appealed directly to a number of Republican senators to support the vote for a debate and ultimately to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.

Colonel Mark Abraham, head of diversity for the British Army, told People Management the lifting of the ban on gays serving in the military in 2000 had “no notable change at all.”

He added: “We got to the point where the policy was incompatible with military service and there was a lack of logic and evidence to support it.

“We knew a lot of gay and lesbian people were serving quite successfully, and it was clear that sexual orientation wasn’t an indication of how good a soldier or officer you could be.” 

He continued: “The reality was that those serving in the army were the same people the day after we lifted the ban, so there was no notable change at all. Everybody carried on with their duties and had the same working relationships as they previously had while the ban was in place.”

Colonel Abraham argues that the lifting of the ban actually made the armed forces more productive: “A lot of gay and lesbian soldiers who were in the army before the ban was lifted, reported that a percentage of their efforts was spent looking over their shoulder and ensuring they weren’t going to be caught. That percentage of time can now be devoted to work and their home life, so actually they are more effective than they were before.”

Last year, Soldier – the magazine of the British army – featured a gay serviceman on its cover for the first time, honouring ten years of gay and lesbian soldiers serving openly in the army.

Trooper James Wharton, of the Household Cavalry Regiment, is shown wearing dress uniform complete with an Iraq medal. He appears on the cover next to the slogan ‘Pride’.