The UK’s ban on gays in the military was lifted 15 years ago today

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It is 15 years to the day since the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the UK armed forces was lifted.

Prior to the action, the Armed Forces Policy and Guidelines on Homosexuality claimed that the homosexual lifestyle was “incompatible” with military life “because of the close physical conditions in which personnel often have to live and work, and also because homosexual behaviour can cause offense, polarise relationships, induce ill-discipline and damage morale and unit effectiveness”.

However, in September 1999, the European Court of Human Rights found that the armed forces had breached the human rights of LGB personnel by firing them after discovering their sexuality.

Tony Blair’s Labour government announced it would comply with the ruling and would immediately lift the ban – with changes to the law coming into effect from January 12, 2000.

The change meant that personnel could no longer be fired merely because of their sexuality – and came years before the US did the same when it repealed ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ in 2011.

Earlier this week, the MoD announced changes to its monitoring process for new recruits, which will now ask soldiers to disclose their sexuality.

There is no record of the current number of gay troops serving in the military, which makes homophobia notoriously hard to track.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said: “The MoD proudly encourages diversity at all levels.

“Service personnel are now encouraged to declare their sexual orientation.

“Although this is not mandatory, collecting this data will give us a better understanding of the composition of our armed forces and help ensure our policies and practices fully support our personnel.”