GAYS WIN THE WAR; Human Rights Court Rules Ban on Serving in Forces Is Illegal

Article excerpt

THE ban on gays serving in the armed forces could be lifted within a year.

Government sources hinted at the dramatic change after Britain's policy on homosexuals and lesbians in the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force was branded illegal yesterday.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the dismissal of three gay servicemen and a lesbian nurse was a breach of civil liberties.

It was hailed as a massive victory by campaigners, who demanded an immediate lifting of the ban. But an MoD official said: "We are committed to a Commons free vote on this and we could be looking at a year because it is a lengthy process."

Defence Secretary George Robertson added: "This Government has to accept the European court's rulings."

Sixty other industrial tribunal cases have now been put on hold. The four sacked service personnel were last night celebrating their landmark legal victory which ends a five-year battle for justice.

Graeme Grady, 36, Jeanette Smith, 33, John Beckett, 29, and Duncan Lustig- Prean, 40, all had careers in the armed forces cut short over their sexuality.

Outside court yesterday former RAF officer Mr Grady, from London, said: "I hope this result paves the way for others to avoid discharge."

Ex-RAF nurse Miss Smith, of Edinburgh, added: "I hope it means gays in the forces can now be judged on merit not sexual orientation."

And former navy engineer Mr Beckett, of Sheffield, said he was "delighted" at the outcome.

Londoner Mr Lustig-Prean, who was kicked out of the Navy, added: "The court was very damning of the policy."

The MoD is now facing huge compensation payout claims from gays kicked out of the forces.

IS IT THE RIGHT DECISION?

YES

says Gulf War hero

Flt Lt John Nichol

THERE have always been gay men and women in the military.

From the First World War to Kosovo they have served their country with quiet distinction.

I am reasonably convinced I have fought alongside gay men and I know I have served with gay women.

These people were brave, diligent and honourable - in the same way my straight colleagues and I were. …