The UK Parliament yesterday (11th January 2016) adopted an amendment to the current Armed Forces Bill that, upon enactment, will repeal two sections of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 that make provision for a "homosexual act" to constitute grounds for discharging a member of Her Majesty's armed forces from the service. I wrote about the provisions here.
The debate in Parliament, which can be watched here, or read here, was fascinating for a number of reasons. One of the most interesting aspects was the discussion of the history of the "witch hunt" against gay men and lesbians in the armed forces and whether the Government should examine and address this.
The repeal of the 1994 legislation is relevant to the subject matter of this blog because it has been encouraged by Duncan Lustig-Prean - former Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy - who was one of the litigants in Lustig-Prean and Beckett v the United Kingdom. The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in that case, as is well known, was instrumental in ending the "ban" on gay men and lesbians serving in the armed forces (a ban which was lifted exactly 16 years ago today).
During the course of my research for the Going to Strasbourg oral history project, I have been privileged to meet some of the people who, along with Duncan Lustig-Prean, challenged and ended the prohibition of homosexuality in the armed forces: Kevin Bazeley, Graeme Grady, Terry Perkins, and Emma Riley. They, like many, many others, were subject to the most distressing and humiliating treatment by the armed forces - truly deserving of the term "witch hunt" - and the tone of yesterday's debate in Parliament is a testimony to their courage to change our society for the better.