LGBTQ+ veterans criticise government for scrapping debate on ‘appalling’ gay ban

British Armed Forces "Gay Ban" Debate Scrapped By Government

Military charities across the UK have joined together to criticise the government after plans for a Westminster debate on the armed forces “gay ban” were scrapped.

Up until 2000, a ban had been in place within the armed forces which sacked people or forced them out for being or appearing gay.

This July, an independent review into the “gay military ban” was published, prompting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to issue an apology to LGBTQ+ veterans who faced “horrific sexual abuse and violence, homophobic bullying, and harassment” as a result.

Meanwhile, then-Defence Secretary Ben Wallace promised that a debate would be held at Westminster on how to make reparations to veterans who had been wrongfully expelled from the armed forces.

British Armed Forces "Gay Ban" Debate Scrapped By Government
LGBTQ+ veterans and advocates are calling for the government debate on reparations to be reinstated. (Getty Images)

However, BBC News reported on Monday (11 December) that plans for this debate have since been scrapped, and will instead be replaced with a statement from the government.

In response to this sudden change, LGBTQ+ military charity Fighting With Pride has written an open letter calling for Sunak to honour the government’s promise of a debate.

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The letter, which has been co-signed by The Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes, Women’s Royal Army Corps Association, and Age UK, also demands for the recommended compensation limit of £50 million to be lifted.

Fighting With Pride’s co-directors Craig Jones and Caroline Paige told BBC News: “Over 1,000 veterans returned to their darkest days as they gave evidence to the LGBT Veterans Independent Review.

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“In denying LGBT veterans the promised Parliamentary debate the government is failing to match their courage – this is an unacceptable act of erasure.

British Armed Forces "Gay Ban" Debate Scrapped By Government
With Pride has written an open letter calling for Sunak to honour the government’s promise of a debate. (Getty Images)

“The £50m cap is a far cry from schemes proposed for those affected by tainted blood, Windrush and for Post Office workers affected by the Horizon scandal.

“The amounts for each veteran will be derisory and will deny these veterans the security of stable housing and the income needed to find enjoyment in their lives.”

The £50 million compensation cap, recommended in July’s independent review, would mean that veterans who were wrongfully dismissed from military service under the “gay ban” could receive less than £20,000 in financial settlements.

Fight With Pride has warned that this could lead to “impoverishment” among veterans who have already lost their income and future pensions by being forced out of the military forces.

One such ex-military member is RAF veteran David Bonney, who is believed to be the last man in Britain to be sent to prison for being gay.

Peter Tatchell and David Bonney holding a rainbow poppy wreath at the Cenotaph
David Bonney (right) commented on the news that the government planned to scrap its debate on the military’s “gay ban”. (Peter Tatchell/Twitter)

Bonney, who was accused of “homosexual misconduct” while working as a medic for the RAF, was sent to military prison in Colchester in 1995. 

Although he was freed four months later on appeal, Bonney’s conviction is still on his criminal record and he has not been able to claim a pension for his years of military service.

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Speaking to the BBC about the government’s decision not to hold a debate on reparations for wrongfully dismissed and convicted servicemembers like him, Bonney said: “Yet again the bullies win, why should they not make up my loss of pension and wages?

“I can’t see how the House of Commons would agree with the cap on financial compensation, which probably explains why Rishi Sunak doesn’t want a debate. 

“I expected this delay and it proves that once again, homophobes must have the ear of the prime minister.”

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