British Navy Urges Fair Treatment of Gays
By AP from the NYTimes on the Web, February 21, 2005
LONDON, Feb.20 -- Britain's navy, which until five years ago banned gays from its workforce, said Monday it is joining a campaign to ensure homosexual employees are fairly treated.
The military also announced gay servicemen and women will be able to live in married quarters with their partners starting later this year.
The Royal Navy said it was entering a program organized by gay rights group Stonewall which advises employers on dealing with gay, lesbian and bisexual staff.
The government lifted a ban on gays serving in Britain's armed forces in 2000 after a lengthy campaign spearheaded by Stonewall.
The Ministry of Defense had said lifting the ban would undermine morale and fighting capability, but
the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 1999 that the restriction was a violation of human rights.
"The armed forces regard sexual orientation as a private matter," a Defense Ministry spokesman said Monday.
The Royal Navy's decision to join the Stonewall Diversity Champions program was "part of our equal opportunities and diversity policy anyway," he added.
During the first year of the program, seminars, pamphlets and specific advice will be on offer for servicemen, Stonewall said.
Lt. Cmdr. Craig Jones, who has served with the Royal Navy for 16 years but has only been openly gay for the last five, described the move as "superbly positive."
Navy spokesman Anton Hanney said gay and lesbian couples would be able to live together as long as their relationship was registered under the new Civil Partnerships Act.
The Ministry of Defense said the move applied to the army and air force as well as the navy.
Civil partnership legislation, which gives gay couples some of the same legal rights as married heterosexuals, has been passed by Parliament and is expected to take effect later this year.
"We will be complying with the law. We are obliged to give equal treatment to gay and lesbian partnerships under these terms," Hanney said.