Fighting for equality on the front lines

UK Parliament

Serve with Pride. 

Looking back to the start of this century, it seems astonishing to think that being gay, lesbian or bisexual could bar you from joining or serving in our Armed Forces. But it’s also a reminder of just how far we’ve come. Today you will be welcomed into Defence irrespective of your sexual orientation.

And, when you join us, you’ll find that not only do we have Army, Navy Royal Air Force and Civilian LGBTQ champions, advocates and networks set up to support our staff but also that we actively celebrate the diversity of all our personnel.

We’re proud to have LGBTQ icons of the calibre of Corporal Charlotte Davies, Captain Hannah Winterbourne and RAF Engineer, Squadron Leader Catherine Lawson. We’re proud to regularly rank with the highest on Stonewall’s equality index for employers.

And we’re proud that in a few weeks’ time the rainbow flag will once again fly from the top of the MOD building as LGBTQ soldiers, sailors and RAF personnel march alongside their civilian colleagues at Pride In London. Sometimes you hear cynics sneering that we’re only paying lip service to diversity, treating it all as some sort of tick box exercise. They are completely missing the point. Diversity and inclusion is fundamental to what we do and we are firmly focused on becoming an inclusive and representative organisation. It’s about our values as a nation.

Today our Armed Forces are fighting against aggression and championing tolerance, justice and democracy in every corner of the world.

But how can we hold others to the highest standards if we’re not prepared to stick to those standards ourselves? It’s saddening to think of the fate of Alan Turing. One of the nation’s greatest minds, and breaker of the Enigma code that led to victory for freedom, justice and tolerance. And yet he was forced to conceal his sexuality. That must never happen again.

That’s why so I’m passionate about championing inclusion throughout MOD, across our Armed Forces and in Parliament. We will be marking a number of different events this year to recognise the diversity of defence personnel, including National Inclusion Week in September. We want people to fulfil their potential and to bring their individual experiences together for the benefit of the wider team.

We want to be a force for inclusion. Back in 2000, Defence was still trying to put people into boxes that didn’t fit. In 2018 we’re thinking outside the box, leading by example and it won’t just be the LGBTQ community who benefits but our wider Armed Forces and inevitably society as a whole.

Words Gavin Williamson, British Defence Secretary

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