Rishi Sunak told to apologise ‘on behalf of the nation’ for historic anti-LGBTQ+ hate in military

Campaigners are calling on the government to publicly publish a review into the armed forces historic treatment of LGBTQ+ military personnel – and for Rishi Sunak to apologise on behalf of the nation. 

Activists are calling for the apology now an independent review into the treatment and experiences of LGBTQ+ veterans has been completed. 

The LGBT Veterans Independent Review was carried out by chair Lord Etherton, independent of both the government and the armed forces, and was reportedly submitted to the UK’s Tory government in May for review and response. 

However, there are concerns from LGBTQ+ veterans group Fighting with Pride that the review might not be made public or will be delayed until later in the summer, thus becoming buried due to the long House of Commons recess. 

Until the year 2000, the armed forces employed a ‘gay ban’ which prevented anyone who is LGBTQ+ from openly serving. 

Those who were discovered to be LGBTQ+ faced horrific treatment, including physical and sexual abuse, so-called ‘conversion therapy’ and blackmail, as well as dismissal from the service. 

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Such dismissals often resulted in people losing their homes, friends and financial security, as well as suffering lifelong trauma from the experiences.  

LGBT+ veterans and joint CEOs of charity Fighting With Pride Craig Jones and Caroline Paige hold a wreath made of red poppies
Joint CEOs of Fighting With Pride Craig Jones MBE and Caroline Paige pose with a wreath as they attend the Remembrance Sunday Procession on 14 November 2021. (Getty/Hollie Adams)

Fighting with Pride are now calling on Rishi Sunak’s government to issue an apology to service personnel who were impacted by this historic mistreatment. 

Ex-Naval officer and Fighting with Pride chair Craig Jones told PinkNews he and other veteran groups hope the prime minister “stands up in parliament and makes an apology on behalf of the nation”. 

The chair explained reparations for the homophobic treatment people faced should come in several forms. 

The first of which is in regards to financial reparations, including compensation, reinstating pensions and the education and training LGBTQ+ people should have received upon leaving the armed forces, but instead they were “thrown out the gate”. 

Jones said: “LGBTQ+ veterans live their lives very differently to all other veterans, and that’s because they have been impoverished by the gay ban.

“They lost their homes, they lost their jobs, they received criminal records, they have not been able to work in the same way that other people, they don’t have savings, they don’t have pensions. 

“That is why compensation is so important. It’s not about rights, it’s about restoring.” 

He added: “It’s fair to say that we want our veterans to have some degree of comfort in that old age, and this group of veterans have no comfort, they have impoverishment.” 

Secondly, amends should be made to “remove the shame that this generation of veterans have felt because they were dismissed in disgrace”, this would include an apology from the head of the government. 

Rishi Sunak’s government needs to ‘match’ the courage of veterans

Addressing concerns that the government may decide to not make the report public, or that its release will be delayed until later in the year, Jones said it was an “act of immense courage that 1,145 people gave evidence in the review”. 

“The government needs to match that courage by publishing the report,” he stated.