Government apologises for historic ban on gay people serving in the armed forces

Alistair Bunkall, defence and security correspondent

Twenty years after a ban on homosexuals serving in the military was lifted, the British government has said sorry for the first time.

Addressing a group of veterans at an event to mark the anniversary in the Houses of Parliament, Johnny Mercer MP said the ban was wrong.

He said: "It was unacceptable then and it is unacceptable now, and as the minster for defence, people and veterans, I wanted to personally apologise to you today for those experiences."

Mr Mercer, a veteran himself, said he wanted to say sorry because it was the right thing to do.

"If I am honest, it is hard to conceive - as a more contemporary veteran of our armed forces, the environment too many of you experienced when you were serving," he said.

"Where being a member of the LGBT+ community would have got you detained, followed by a dishonourable discharge from the military.

"Volunteering to serve is an act of bravery in itself; to volunteer for the chaotic, challenging nature of service life and yet within that community, which so many of us are so proud of, experience discrimination of this sort is unacceptable."

Until the ban was lifted in 2000, anyone found to be homosexual in the armed forces was dishonourably discharged and in some cases had medals removed.

A landmark case last month saw the High Court order medals to be returned to one veteran.

More cases are expected to follow.