The head of the British Army: respect for GLBT officers and soldiers now 'a command responsibility' for the Army... [2008-10-12
Sunday 12 October 2008
Army's top general makes history by addressing conference on
The head of the British Army has made military history by addressing a
conference on homosexuality, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
By Sean Rayment
General Sir Richard Dannatt, the chief of the general staff, told
members of the Army-sponsored Fourth Joint Conference on Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transexual Matters that homosexuals were welcome to serve
in the Army.
In a speech to the conference in London on Thursday, – the first of
its kind by any Army chief – Gen Sir Richard said that respect for
gays, lesbian, bi-sexual and trans-sexual officers and soldiers was
now "a command responsibility" and was vital for "operational
In the speech, he said: "We have made real progress in our
understanding of equality and diversity in the military context, and
there is a desire to achieve more yet. My recent Equality and
Diversity Directive for the Army sets the standard that we must live
by, and, importantly, it communicates that standard to everyone in the
chain of command.
"Respect for Others", one of the Army's core values, is at the heart
of this directive.
"Respect for others is not an optional extra, it is a command
responsibility and an essential part of leadership, teamwork and
operational effectiveness. We must get dealing with each other in the
Army right, so that we also get it right when dealing with other
populations on operations, when we often have men and women from other
nations under command."
The Army has often had a difficult relationship with the gay community
in comparison to the Royal Navy and RAF. Only last year, Gen Dannatt
banned soldiers in uniform from attending the Gay Pride march. By
contrast, gay personnel from the Royal Navy and the RAF were
encouraged to attend in uniform.
Sources close to the general, who is a Christian with deeply held
views, said that Gen Dannatt was determined to speak at the conference
because he wanted to demonstrate that the modern Army is a tolerant
organisation, where people of any sexual orientation can make a
The source added: "There will be a reaction to this by some in the
Army but I think the majority of soldiers will welcome it. Being gay
isn't the issue it once was. What matters on the battlefield is how
you fight not who you sleep with – it's just not an issue."
The armed forces ban on homosexual serviced personnel was lifted in
2000 following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which
described it as a "grave interference" into the private life of
When the ban was in place gay and lesbian service personnel were
ruthlessly hunted down by members of the special investigation branch
of the Royal Military Police. Troops who "confessed" to being gay
after hours of interrogation were disciplined or discharged from the
military for being in breach of military law.
The military's defence chiefs had previously claimed that allowing
homosexual personnel to serve openly in the forces would impact on
operational effectiveness and was prejudicial to military discipline.
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2008
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