Navy lets sailors
march at Gay Pride
By Sophie Goodchild,
news.independent.co.uk Online, June 25, 2006
Military officials have given the
go-ahead for gay and lesbian naval personnel to march in full uniform for the
first time at Britain's annual Gay Pride celebrations.
This Saturday, more than 40 sailors, from able seamen to Royal Navy Reserve
commanders, will lead the EuroPride parade through London. The event comes
six years after a landmark legal ruling to allow gay people to serve openly in
the armed forces.
The proposal to participate in Gay Pride was first discussed earlier this year
by the Second Sea Lord, Vice-Admiral Johns, at a conference organised by
Stonewall. Ben Summerskill, Stonewall's chief executive, said the Navy
should be congratulated for its gay-friendly policies, and he hoped the Army and
Royal Air Force would follow the example.
"We are delighted that so many naval personnel feel able to march on Saturday
and feel comfortable about doing so," he said. "There are an awful lot of
young recruits who would like to be in the military, and this sends the right
The Navy said it was the first time that any military organisation in the world
had allowed gay and lesbian recruits to march in uniform at such an event.
"They will not be marching in a parade formation but they will be walking
smartly and in full uniform with medals," said Commander Graham Beard, the
Navy's diversity spokesman. "We strive to support our lesbian and gay
community, and this is a massive step forward for us."
In 1999, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that gay people had a legal
right to serve in the armed forces. Before then, they faced being thrown
out if their sexuality was discovered.
Lieutenant Commander Craig Jones, one of the Navy's most senior openly gay
officers, is helping to organise the march.
He said: "I've been looking forward to something like this happening for
four or five years. There were countries that accepted gays into the
services before us, but we're the first to do this."