Call for Action to combat Homophobia in the Military

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.