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U.K. Prime Minister Apologizes for Ban on LGBTQ+ Service Members

U.K. Prime Minister Apologizes for Ban on LGBTQ+ Service Members

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak's apology came after the release of a report on how armed forces members were harmed by the policy.

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak s apologized to LGBTQ+ service members mistreated or discharged under a ban that was in place until 2000.

Sunak made the apology Wednesday after the release of a report estimating that “hundreds, if not thousands … were dismissed or suffered” because of the ban, the Associated Press reports.

“As today’s report makes clear, in that period many endured the most horrific sexual abuse and violence, homophobic bullying and harassment, all while bravely serving this country,” Sunak said while appearing before Parliament. “Today, on behalf of the British state, I apologize.”

He also said the ban was “an appalling failure of the British state.”

The report, “The LGBT Veterans Independent Review,” was compiled under the leadership of Terence Etherton, a retired judge who was the first out gay jurist in the U.K., and drew on interviews with 1,145 people who served in the armed forces between 1967 to 2000. The nation decriminalized homosexuality in 1967 but continued to bar LGBTQ+ citizens from the military until the European Court of Human Rights revoked the ban in a 2000 ruling.

The review found an “incomprehensible policy of homophobic bigotry,” the AP notes. Veterans “give shocking evidence of a culture of homophobia, and of bullying, blackmail and sexual assaults, abusive investigations into sexual orientation and sexual preference, disgraceful medical examinations, including conversion therapy,” the report reads.

Some LGBTQ+ service members were denied medals or saw them taken away, and some lost their pension rights. Some were even imprisoned and still have criminal convictions on their records.

The report made 49 recommendations, including financial compensation to those harmed by the policy, restoration of medals, and “clarification of pension rights,” the BBC reports. The government will take up these recommendations after its summer recess.

LGBTQ+ veterans and activist groups welcomed the report and urged the government to adopt the recommendations quickly and in full.

“Having our history, experiences, and enormous pain acknowledged and apologized for, hearing that the armed services and government that perpetuated institutional bullying will now be held accountable to finally support LBGT+ veterans, is a relief,” Emma Riley, who was discharged from the Royal Navy in the 1990s for being a lesbian, told the BBC. She said the recommendations should be implemented “swiftly.”

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