The Government’s decision to lift the military ban on lesbians and gays is a welcome first step towards eradicating homophobia from the Armed Forces, according to OutRage!.
But OutRage! warns that deeply entrenched homophobic attitudes will continue to force many gay people out of the services, unless the military authorities take tough new action to combat the victimisation of homosexual personnel.
“Homophobic harassment should be a disciplinary offence under the military code”, says OutRage! spokesperson Peter Tatchell.
“Military training and education programmes should challenge antigay attitudes and encourage acceptance of homosexual servicemen and women.
“What is needed is an educational campaign –similar to the military’s current efforts against racism– to create a safe, sympathetic environment for gay members of the forces.
“Without these initiatives to stamp out queer-bashing, the military will remain a hostile institution. Despite the ending of the ban on gays, homophobic abuse will pressure many homosexuals to resign.”
OutRage! is calling for a crackdown on homophobia as part of a comprehensive action plan to eradicate all forms of prejudice from the Armed Forces and to end the victimisation of recruits from all minority communities.
“The Armed Forces should reflect the democratic, humanitarian values which they exist to defend. Any toleration of homophobia, racism and other prejudices is unacceptable.
“Human rights awareness should be a central part of army education, as it was during the Second World War under the auspices of the Army Bureau of Current Affairs. Unless the Armed Forces respect the human rights of their own members, they cannot be relied upon to defend the human rights of the British people”, said Mr. Tatchell.
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Crowds lining Whitehall for the official Remembrance Sunday Parade applauded as gay military veterans, OutRage!, and representatives from seven other queer organisations marched to the Cenotaph for a special Queer Remembrance ceremony today, Sunday, 14th November 1999, just after 12 noon.
The applause and cheers outnumbered a few isolated incidents of abuse, when some straight veterans and onlookers shouted “queer bastards”, “faggots”, and “you poofs should be ashamed of yourselves”.
Following immediately after the official Remembrance Day ceremony and war veterans’ march-past, the OutRage!-organised commemoration in Whitehall took some of the thronged on-lookers packed against the barriers by surprise.
OutRage! exhorts the military to “educate its members in human rights and to challenge homophobic attitudes during recruitment and training programmes”.
The mere “suspension” of disciplinary action against gays in the military is “inadequate, cowardly and unprincipled”, since the ban on gay recruits remains intact and homophobia is still rampant in the ranks.
The Armed Forces are being urged to “crack down on homophobia to combat the harassment and victimisation of homosexual personnel”.
The call from OutRage! exhorts the military to “educate its members in human rights and to challenge homophobic attitudes during its recruitment and training programmes”.
OutRage! is also calling for “homophobia to be made a disciplinary offence under the military code”.
It is urging “action against homophobia” as part of “a comprehensive initiative to eradicate ALL forms of prejudice from the Armed Forces and to end the victimisation of recruits from minority communities”.
“The Armed Forces should reflect the democratic, humanitarian values they exist to defend”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!. “The military’s toleration of homophobia, racism and other prejudices is unacceptable.
“Human rights’ awareness should be a central part of army education, as it was during the Second World War. Unless the Armed Forces respect the human rights of their own members, they cannot be relied upon to defend the human rights of the British people.
“Service chiefs justify their opposition to gays in the military with the claim that homophobia is rife in the ranks. But they are refusing to take any action to counter queer-hating attitudes.
“What is needed is an educational campaign, similar to the military’s current efforts against racism, to promote understanding and support for gay soldiers, sailors and air crews”, said Tatchell.
OutRage! has also condemned the Labour Government’s “suspension” of the ban on homosexuals in the military as “inadequate, cowardly and unprincipled”.
“Any Government with integrity would have responded to the European Court’s ruling by ending the ban on gays immediately. The mere suspension of disciplinary action against homosexuals is a half-hearted measure”, said Tatchell.
“It maintains the ban on lesbians and gay men joining the military. The continued exclusion of homosexual recruits leaves a key element of the Government’s homophobic defence policy intact.
“Before the 1997 General Election, Labour promised to end the prohibition on homosexuals in the Armed Forces. Within two weeks of coming to power, Tony Blair’s Government ditched its pre-election pledge.
“For the last two and a half years, Labour has fought tooth-and-nail in the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights to maintain the military’s right to discriminate against lesbians and gay men. If it were up to Labour, the military witch-hunts would continue. It is only because of the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that the Government has done this partial U-turn”, said Tatchell.
What rôle did the British military authorities play in the escape from justice after WWII of Nazi war criminal Dr. Carl Peter Værnet, perpetrator of gruesome experiments on gay prisoners in the Buchenwald and Neuengamme concentration camps?
HB (A) MOD
Historical Records Branch
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
19 August 1999
Dear John Harding,
NAZI WAR CRIMINAL – SS Sturmbannführer DR. VÆRNET
I am writing to request your help to discover how and why the Danish Nazi doctor, Carl Peter Værnet, was released from the jurisdiction of the British military authorities after the end of the Second World War, and the reason the British military authorities never sought to put him on trial for war crimes.
Dr. Værnet was a Danish citizen, born on 28 April 1893. He served in SS, with the rank of Sturmbannführer (variously listed as SS-Runen – SS 1792 and SS 1809). He is recorded as having worked under the personal directions of the head of Gestapo, Heinrich Himmler, conducting barbaric medical experiments -including castration and forced hormonal implants- on gay concentration camp prisoners at Buchenwald and Neuengamme.
Dr. Værnet’s role in the medical abuse and deaths of gay prisoners is documented in the archives at the International Tracing Service at Arolsen (example: ITS Arolsen, book 36, folder 405), and at the Berlin Document Centre.
Mention of his experiments is made in a report written soon after the liberation of Buchenwald by Eugen Kogon for the US Army Psychological Warfare Division.
His medical malpractices involving gay inmates are also cited in the books The Pink Triangle by Richard Plant (Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh 1987) and Hidden Holocaust? by Dr. Günter Grau (Cassell, London 1995).
Dr. Værnet’s gruesome experiments on gay internees are further reported in the German documentary film Wir hatten ein grosses ‘A’ am Bein (We Were Marked With A Big ‘A’), directed by Elke Jeonrond and Joseph Weishaupt, and made for NDR. in 1991 by Mediengruppe Schwabing Filmproduktion.
According to my information, at the end of the war Dr. Værnet was captured by the British Army and interned in the British-run Alsgade Skole prisoner-of-war camp in Copenhagen.
On 29 May 1945, the chairman of the Danish Medical Association sent the Danish Ministry of Justice an affidavit signed by a Danish police officer who had been incarcerated in Buchenwald. This affidavit identified Værnet as having been a serving SS officer involved in war crimes. Were the British military authorities aware of this affidavit and other allegations of war crimes against Dr. Værnet?
In the autumn of 1945, the British military authorities handed over Dr. Værnet to the Danish authorities. Precisely what these authorities did with him is uncertain. Why was he handed over?
It is known that Dr. Værnet was eventually transferred to a hospital, on the grounds that he was allegedly suffering from a heart complaint (which may have been fictional in order to facilitate his release from detention). When did this transfer take place? Did the British military authorities agree the transfer?
Dr. Værnet is said to have told fellow doctors that his heart trouble could only be treated in Sweden. Astonishingly, despite being accused of war crimes, Dr. Værnet was allowed by the Danish (and British?) authorities to travel to Sweden.
In Sweden, he contacted the Nazi escape network, which spirited him away to Argentina, probably in late 1946 or early 1947.
On 19 November 1947, the Copenhagen newspaper, Berlingske Tidende, carried a letter from a Danish exile living in Argentina which reported that Dr. Værnet was working in the Buenos Aires health department. He remained living there openly until his death in 1965.
Could you please investigate:
- Why the British military authorities fail to put Dr. Værnet on trial on charges of war crimes, alongside other Nazi doctors?
- For what reason did the British military authorities release Dr. Værnet -a wanted war criminal- from their jurisdiction?
- Into whose custody, and under what conditions, did the British military authorities release Dr. Værnet?
- Did the British military authorities play any rôle in authorising Dr. Værnet’s transfer to a Danish hospital and his trip to Sweden?
Your help in answering these questions would be very much appreciated.
Yours with thanks,
“Portillo screws queer soldiers” banner in Parliament Square
Image Copyright: Steve Mayes, 1997
There were lively exchanges between gay rights protesters, shoppers, and police when campaigners against the ban on homosexuals in the Armed Forces took their protest to the constituency of the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Portillo, today in Southgate High Street.
There were only a handful of negative reactions from local people. Most said they supported the right of gays to serve in the military. Some showed surprise on being told that Portillo was the person responsible for enforcing the ban.
Nicholas Luard, the Referendum Party candidate for Enfield-Southgate and an ex-SAS officer was canvassing at the same time as OutRage!. He expressed his opposition to the ban, and condemned Portillo for dismissing gay soldiers.
Leafletting and speaking to local constituents, a dozen members of OutRage! succeeded in persuading many of them to vote against Michael Portillo, because of his rôle in enforcing the exclusion of lesbians and gay men from the military.
“In his capacity as Defence Secretary, Michael Portillo is responsible for witch-hunting homosexuals out of the armed forces, dismissing gay soldiers with exemplary service records”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.
Campaigners erected a giant billboard in the High Street reading “Portillo Screws Queer Soldiers”, in protest at the way Michael Portillo’s ban on homosexuals is screwing up the lives of lesbian and gay service personnel. They also displayed placards saying “Scrap Portillo’s Ban on Gay Soldiers”.
“John Major has stated that being homosexual is no bar to serving as a Government Minister. Tony Banks, MP, pointed out last year that it’s inconsistent that a Secretary of State for Defence could be gay, but gay people are forbidden to serve in the armed forces”, said Peter Tatchell.
“Portillo not only enforces the military ban on homosexuals, he also voted against an equal age of consent”, added Marina Cronin.
A young gay man, 17-year-old Chris Morris, spoke to shoppers, explaining how Portillo’s endorsement of a discriminatory age of consent means that under-age homosexuals like himself can be arrested for consenting homosexual relationships.
“Michael Portillo is every gay man’s favourite homophobe. He is no friend to the gay community. We’re targetting him because he supports antigay discrimination”, said Ms. Cronin.
“Since Michael Portillo refuses to support homosexual human rights, we don’t think he’s fit to be an MP. We hope the people of Enfield-Southgate will vote him out of office on May 1st”, she concluded.
Less than two weeks after this protest, the electorate of Enfield-Southgate did vote Michael Portillo out of office, giving the out gay candidate, Stephen Twigg, a resounding majority. — Proof that direct action works!
To: The Secretary,
Royal College of Psychiatrists,
17 Belgrave Square, London SW1.
Dear Vanessa Cameron,
We are writing to express our concern at the long history of psychiatric abuse suffered by lesbians, gays and bisexuals. For most of this century, the psychiatric profession labelled us as “mentally ill” and “pathological”. Because we were deemed to be sick, we were pressured, and sometimes forced, to undergo psychiatric treatment in a bid to make us heterosexual.
This treatment consisted, most notoriously, of aversion therapy: the administration of electric shocks or nausea-inducing drugs, coinciding with the showing of homoerotic images. These attempts to cure homosexuals were common until the mid-1970s. They caused untold suffering and harm to many gay and bisexual people.
Aversion therapy is still used occasionally today. John Beckett, a naval weapons engineer, was offered aversion therapy by the Royal Navy when it was discovered he was gay. The fact that there are still apparently psychiatrists who are willing to administer this barbaric psuedo-medicine is scandalous.
It is time the Royal College of Psychiatrists took official action to stamp out lingering homophobia vithin the profession. Specifically, we urge the Royal College to:
- Renounce the practice of aversion therapy and apologise to the lesbian and gay community for its usage.
- Instruct your members to halt the use of all therapies that attempt to cure homosexuality and urge them to root out homophobic bias in their dealings with patients.
- Produce an up-to-date report on how the various schools of psychiatry currently view homosexuality and the different forms of treatment they offer to allegedly dysfunctional lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
- Call on the government to establish a network of specialised NHS counselling services to help gay and bisexual men who have been sexually and emotionally damaged by aversion therapy.
- Support the campaign to compensate aversion therapy victims.