Over the last year or so there have been many notable anniversaries of landmarks on the way to LGBT equality: 40 since since Stonewall (June last year), 40 years since the first gay liberation march (June this year); 20 years since the first civil unions in Denmark (last year),10 years for those in Vermont (June this year), 5 years for the first full marriages in Massachusetts. Here’s one that passed me by – possibly because it’s more difficult to pin it down to a specific date in th year, possibly because it will have been missed by the American media that so dominate our news cycle.
2010 marks ten years of openly gay and lesbian members serving in the British armed forces.
Two specific dates are important here: in January 2000 the direct ban on “homosexual” servicemen and women was lifted, in November 2010 the regulations went further, making discrimination on grounds of orientation illegal. If you want a specific date for the ten-year anniversary celebration, I guess you could take a simple average of these two months, and come up – round about now, just in time for London Pride on Saturday, when there will surely be uniformed squads from the army, navy or airforce marching with the rest of us. Unlike the rest of us, they will be PAID for doing so! From a link at “Proud2Serve“, I can share extracts from the formal “DEFENCE INSTRUCTIONS AND NOTICES” for the event:
This year’s ‘London Pride’ event will take place in Central London on Sat 3 Jul 10. Service and Civil Service Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) personnel will be permitted to march in the parade element. Following the success of the event in both 2008 and 2009, authority is given for serving members of the regular and reserve forces to march in uniform. Individuals marching in uniform on the day will be considered to be representing their Service at a Public parade and as such will be considered to be on-duty and may claim duty travel costs (but not subsistence) within the UK, subject to budget manager approval.
London Pride is a large public event which attracts up to 600,000 members of the public from the UK and overseas. The event attracts worldwide media attention and the very highest of standards are required to ensure that the Services and the MOD are portrayed in a positive light as modern, inclusive, employers that welcome men and women from a diverse range of backgrounds. A high degree of discipline and military bearing is expected from Service personnel participating in the parade. Prior to commencement of the March, individual Service Parade commanders will be expected to undertake an inspection of their Flight to ensure their personnel are suitably prepared for this high profile event. Personnel who fail to make the appropriate Service dress and deportment standards will be removed from the Parade. The orders of dress are as follows:Royal Navy No 1 Dress with lanyards or equivalentArmy Service Dress/No 2 DressRoyal Air Force No 1 DressMedals are to be worn by all entitled to wear them
Although openly gay men were not only accepted but expected in the military in former times, getting to this point after the low points of the mid-twentieth century was a long hard struggle, which still continues in the US. For the UK, Proud2Serve has a useful chronology.
Inclusion in the military is important not simply as a symbol of the armed services “catching up” with the modern world. As Peter Bracken clearly shows in a Guardian “Comment is free” article, creating a culture of inclusion and equality in the military is a powerful guarantor for entrenching that culture of equality in the civilian world. Here are some extracts: