The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced that military personnel discharged from service because of their sexual orientation can now apply for the restoration of their medals if they were stripped of them at departure.
A number of military men and women were removed from service under laws against homosexual behavior until 2000 when Britain lifted the ban following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights pronouncing the policy a violation of basic human rights.
The rules prior to the ruling allowed dispossession of medals of those convicted of homosexual behavior, the MoD wrote in a statement.
Addressing ‘Historical Wrong’
Calling the move a commitment to address a “historical wrong,” the MoD said applications for medal restoration will be considered on the basis of the “facts available and submitted for approval to the Defence Council.”
After vetting any application, designated personnel will make a recommendation on the merits of the case and forward it to the Defence Services Secretary, who will “review the case before submitting to the Defence Council for a final determination.”
Moving forward, the MoD underlined that only those cases will be considered under the scheme where the personnel lost their medal due to their sexual preference.
The ministry further added that in those cases where evidence provided by the concerned former service members is deemed to be inconclusive, the affected personnel will be allowed to present further evidence in writing to back their case.
We are pleased to announce former personnel who were dismissed from service on the basis of their sexuality can apply to have their medals restored. Defence Minister Baroness Goldie has made a statement 🗣 https://t.co/4RTgYoVB2c pic.twitter.com/c8dvbzRdtQ
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) February 16, 2021
Gay Rights Activists Welcome Announcement
The announcement was welcomed by gay rights activists as the “first step on a journey” and called upon authorities to also address the issues of enduring criminal records against homosexual ex-servicemen and women, their lost pension rights, and still blemished service records, the Guardian wrote.
On average 200 to 250 British service members were reportedly removed from their service prior to the turn of the last century, with many being imprisoned and some having their medals physically ripped off their uniforms following their conviction.
Member Of Parliament Apologizes
Meanwhile, addressing a group of veterans in Parliament, Johnny Mercer, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence People and Veterans, apologized to military veterans historically affected by the ban, calling it unacceptable.
“It was unacceptable then and it is unacceptable now, and as the minister for defense, people and veterans, I wanted to personally apologize to you today for those experiences.”
Mercer, a veteran himself, said it is hard to conceive what the affected personnel would have gone through due to the ban.
“If I am honest, it is hard to conceive – as a more contemporary veteran of our armed forces, the environment too many of you experienced when you were serving,” he said.
“Where being a member of the LGBT+ community would have got you detained, followed by a dishonorable discharge from the military.
“Volunteering to serve is an act of bravery in itself; to volunteer for the chaotic, challenging nature of service life and yet within that community, which so many of us are so proud of, experience discrimination of this sort is unacceptable.”