The government has announced that Lord Etherton PC QC, who was the first openly gay judge to sit in Britain’s senior courts, has been appointed as the chair of the independent review into the impact the historic ban on LGBT military personnel had on veterans.
The review was announced by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Defence Secretary as part of the Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan in January. The independent review will provide the opportunity for the government to better understand the lived experience of LGBT veterans, who served prior to 2000, including how being discharged from the military because of their sexuality affected their life.
The announcement of the chair of the review forms part of the government’s wider measures for veterans this Armed Forces Week. In January, the Government launched the Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan of more than 60 commitments backed by an extra £70 million. Significant progress has been made with more than a fifth of commitments already completed after just six months.
Minister for Defence People and Veterans Leo Docherty said: “The historic ban was wrong and those who were thrown out of the military purely because of their sexuality suffered and we acknowledge that. This review will help us better understand the impact and I am delighted that the highly eminent Lord Etherton will be chairing it. We look forward to seeing the outcome of the review and reviewing the recommendations.”
Lord Etherton is a crossbench member of the House of Lords. He was formerly Master of the Rolls, the President of the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal and the Head of Civil Justice in England and Wales. He has served as chair of the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Chancellor of the High Court. He is an honorary professor of law at Birkbeck, London University. Lord Etherton was the first openly gay judge of the senior courts. He entered into a civil partnership in 2006 and a same-sex marriage in 2014.
Lord Etherton commented: “I am extremely pleased to be appointed as the chair of the independent review into the treatment of LGBT veterans by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Secretary of State for Defence.
“This is an important review that will provide an opportunity for veterans across the country who were affected by the pre-2000 ban on homosexuality to share their testimonies in a safe environment. This will allow me to make measured recommendations as to how the government can meet their commitment to ensure that all veterans’ experiences are understood and valued .”
From this, the review team will make evidence-based recommendations as to how the government can meet its commitment in the Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan and ensure the service and experience of every LGBT veteran is understood and valued. Lord Etherton is expected to report his recommendations next year.
The review follows steps the government has already taken to enable those who forfeited medals for reasons relating to their sexuality to apply to have them returned. Home Secretary Priti Patel also announced an expansion to the scope of a scheme which enables those with historic convictions for same-sex sexual activity to apply to have their caution or conviction disregarded. The expansion will greatly increase the number of veterans able to benefit from the scheme.
Fighting with Pride
Joint CEOs of Fighting With Pride Craig Jones MBE and Caroline Paige said: “The LGBT Veterans Independent Review brings hope to veterans who served at a time when they were not welcomed in the Armed Forces as LGBT personnel are today. They have faced immense challenges in their lives in consequence of the ban and today’s announcement brings hope for a better future.
“Fighting With Pride looks forward to working with Lord Etherton as he begins the important work of hearing evidence from those who lost careers, homes and families in the years of the ban and for whom the impact endures.”