Posted: June 28, 2007 - 1:00 pm ET
(London) The British military this week issued a blanket apology to all gay and lesbian members of the armed forces who drummed out of the services because of their sexuality.
In 2000 the military ended its ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military- more than 30 years after homosexuality was decriminalized in the UK.
But up until 2000 the armed forces discharged hundreds of gays and lesbians. It even had a special investigative unit to root out suspected homosexuals.
Since then the various branches of the military have embarked on a policy of inclusion. Last year the Royal Navy hired LGBT rights group Stonewall to advise it. But a survey conducted for the navy the same year still found widespread homophobia. (story)
Twenty percent of respondents said they did not want to serve alongside gays or lesbians.
This week the man in charge of equality training for the Ministry of Defense, Wing Commander Phil Sagar, apologized for the persecution that gays and lesbians had suffered prior to 2000.
"We’re sorry for anyone who has suffered personal trauma," Sagar told the BBC.
"Our challenge is to create an environment where there is a genuine freedom from harassment and discrimination. We’re only seven years down the trail . . . I guess there’s still some way to go."
In the years since Great Britain ended the ban on gays serving in the military the government has paid out more than $1.6 million to servicemembers drummed out of the services.
The figures represent 24 former servicemembers who threatened court action over their dismissal after the removal of the ban in 2000. More than 50 claims are still pending.
On Saturday LGBT members of the Royal Navy will be taking part in a Gay Pride march in London, all of them wearing their uniform. Members of the Army and the RAF have been banned from wearing their uniform at pride events.
The United States is the only major Western power to bar gays from serving openly in the military, under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
A public opinion poll conducted in the US last month found that 79 percent support gays serving openly in the military.
In February, legislation was reintroduced in Congress to repeal DADT. (story)
Two lawsuits challenging DADT are underway. One, by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is underway in federal court in Boston and a second, by Log Cabin Republicans, is before a federal court in California. (story)