The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has announced that former British Armed Forces personnel who were sacked due to their sexuality will now be able to have their medals restored.
The MOD said former personnel who were stripped of their medals due to a historic ban on being homosexual will be invited to apply for any medals lost.
Gay people were banned from serving in the military until 2000. The MOD added that in some examples where the personnel had died, their families can apply.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter: “Those who serve in our armed forces deserve every recognition for their service.
“It was a very great injustice that this was denied to some members simply because of their sexuality. I hugely welcome the fact we can now address this historic wrong.”
All applications are to be reviewed on an individual basis by the Defence Council and if successful the MOD Medal Office will arrange for new medals to be awarded. The announcement comes at the start of LGBT History Month.
Fighting With Pride, a charity that supports LGBT+ veterans, welcomed the move, calling it the first step in addressing the impact of ‘historical wrongs endured by the LGBT+ veterans community’.
Fighting With Pride joint chief executives Craig Jones and Caroline Page said: “Today, LGBT+ veterans are finally beginning their journey back to the military family. Fighting With Pride looks forward to a better future for them, where they are recognised for their service, their health needs are supported, and they are recompensed for the wrongs of the past.
“We are also pleased to see the government’s further commitment to investigate the long term impact of being dismissed from our armed forces, particularly in regard to the health, housing and employment of LGBT+ veterans, many of whom today still live in poverty and beyond the protections of the Armed Forces Covenant.”
Defence Minister Baroness Goldie said: “It is deeply regrettable that because of their sexuality some members of the armed forces were in the past treated in a way that would not be acceptable today.
“As a result of disciplinary action and their dismissal from service, some personnel forfeited medals that they had earned, and others were denied the opportunity of continued service that could have resulted in the restoration of medals that were forfeited for different reasons.”
The MOD said it hoped the new policy would go some way to correcting the ‘historic injustice’ and ‘bring some comfort’ to veterans and their families.
Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer said: “LGBT personnel have and continue to make significant contributions to the Armed Forces.
“Today’s announcement addresses a historic injustice and demonstrates that the military is a positive place to work for all who choose to serve.
“I encourage anyone who may have been affected to apply to have their medals returned.”
The MOD said work was also underway across the government to ‘examine and understand’ the impact of pre-2000 policies in the armed forces that related to sexuality. The MOD said this process would ensure that the impact of the ‘historical wrong’ is ‘acknowledged and appropriately addressed.’
LGBT+ rights charity Stonewall associate director of communications and campaign Robbie de Santos praised the move, saying: “It’s wonderful news that LGBT+ veterans will finally be able to get their medals back. This move by the Ministry of Defence will go a long way in the righting the wrongs of the past and will mean a lot to so many LGBT+ people who proudly served their country.
“This decision from the Ministry of Defence shows the kind of difference bold leadership can make for LGBT+ people. It’s never too late for an organisation to apologise for historical injustices and show the steps they are taking to make things right. But for leaders of today, we urge you not to wait.”