Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday apologised on behalf of the UK government for the treatment of LGBT veterans, saying a previous ban on their deployment in the armed forces was an "appalling failure" of the British state.
Sunak’s apology in the House of Commons came as an independent review concluded that pre-2000 investigations into an individual’s sexuality were intrusive and invasive, and for some caused long-lasting and severe impacts on the lives of veterans and their families.
“The ban on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people serving in our military until the year 2000 was an appalling failure of the British state – decades behind the law of this land,” said Sunak.
“As today’s report makes clear, in that period many endured the most horrific sexual abuse and violence, homophobic bullying and harassment while bravely serving this country.
"Today, on behalf of the British state, I apologise, and I hope all those affected will be able to feel part of the proud veteran community that has done so much to keep our country safe,” he said.
The independent review, chaired by Lord Terence Etherton and co-commissioned by the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Office for Veterans Affairs, examined the experiences of personnel between 1967-2000 who were impacted by the ban on homosexuality in the armed forces.
The government has previously accepted that the treatment of LGBT armed forces personnel and veterans before the year 2000 was completely unacceptable and highly regrettable.
“I am pleased that this review has shone a much-needed light on a shameful and unacceptable historical chapter in our armed forces history,” said UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
“It is heartbreaking that the very tolerance and values that we expected our soldiers, sailors, and aviators to fight for, were denied to many of them. I am pleased we now have the opportunity to right those historic wrongs so that LGBT veterans can once again take pride in their service,” he said.
The scope of Lord Etherton's review focused on three main areas, with the primary one being the effect the historic policy may have had on those impacted by the ban, including the consequences for their future lives.
It also looked at the accessibility of veterans’ services for LGBT people and how to ensure that LGBT veterans are recognised and fully accepted as members of the armed forces.
“The apology today is an important part of addressing the historic hurt that many LGBT veterans feel," said Johnny Mercer, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.
"We’re also looking to the future as we learn from the past, including stepping up support services for veterans affected by the issues raised in this review,” Mercer said.
To support those affected by the historic ban, the Office for Veterans’ Affairs said it is awarding 250,000 pounds to LGBT organisations to provide support services for impacted veterans.
This is in addition to the 45,000 pounds in funding provided to organisations last year to help them gather evidence for the review, the MoD said.
Within the review are 49 recommendations, including the restoration of medals that were required to be handed back on dismissal or discharge, the awarding of campaign and other medals that were withheld, the clarification of pension rights, and the presentation of the Veterans Badge.
The government said it is committed to working with LGBT armed forces veterans to ensure that all restorative measures delivered are appropriate.