Army chiefs join Stonewall to promote equal rights for gay soldiers

Army chiefs joined forces with protest group Stonewall to promote equal rights and tolerance of homosexual soldiers.

The head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, said discrimination prevented soldiers doing their jobs properly, and said the service must reflect ‘the nation’s values of tolerance, decency and quality’.

Stonewall says it does not yet have an action plan, but expects to focus on the recruitment and retention of military personnel early on.

Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme now counts 400 members and practitioners, including big names such as Barclays and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

The equality move comes eight years after a ban on gays serving in the military was annulled following a human rights law ruling brought about by Stonewall.

“One of the Army’s six core values is ‘respect for others’ and it is therefore our absolute duty to treat our fellow soldiers as we would wish to be treated ourselves,” said Dannatt. “The nation’s values of tolerance, decency and equality must be reflected in the Army.”

“This sends out a very powerful message – the Army is a 21st-century employer which wants to recruit, recognise and support the very best staff, regardless of background,” said Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall.

The programme could see the Army involved in specific recruitment initiatives, such as advertising in the “pink media”, and face-to-face mentoring for senior staff.

The army will host a conference for gay personnel in London in October. Last week, a staff survey found almost half the UK’s Armed Forces personnel were on the verge of quitting.

And Armed Forces personnel who have served for more than six years are to be given free university or college education at the end of their military careers.

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