Sexual orientation and military service

Sexual orientation and military service
  Homosexuals and bisexuals allowed to serve in the military
  Homosexuals and bisexuals banned from serving (or same-gender sexual relationships illegal)
  Data not available

The military forces of the world have differing approaches to the enlistment of homosexual (gay and lesbian) and bisexual individuals. The armed forces of most developed countries have now removed policies excluding non-heterosexual individuals (with strict policies on sexual harassment). Of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States permit gay people to serve openly.

Nations that permit gay people to serve openly in the military include the Republic of China (Taiwan), Australia, Israel, Argentina, and all NATO members excluding Turkey.[1]


Countries that allow gay people to serve


Gays and lesbians have been allowed to serve in the Military of Albania since 2008.


As of 2009, the Argentine government has officially ended the ban on gays in the Argentine Armed Forces.[2] A new military justice system was put into effect which decriminalizes homosexuality among uniformed members, and moves crimes committed exclusively within the military to the public justice sphere [previously there had been a separate military court system].

Under the old system, gays were not permitted to have access to a military career, at the same time as this sexual orientation was penalized. And, while there are no publicly known former sanctions against gays under the old policy, this does not mean that men and women with that sexual orientation have not been disciplined, and perhaps separated from the armed forces under a mantle of silence. In fact, with this new system, gay men or lesbian women who wish to train in the forces should encounter no impediment, nor any military retaliation areas.


Australia allows homosexuals to serve openly (since 1992, see LGBT rights in Australia). The Commonwealth of Australia policies are to permit gay men and lesbians to serve openly.[3] Since 1 January 2009 same-sex couples have had the same access to military retirement pensions and superannuation as opposite-sex couples. Prior studies, eighteen in-depth interviews with informed military and non-military observers and other data have found that the lifting of the ban on gay service has not led to any identifiable negative effects on troop morale, combat effectiveness, recruitment and retention or other measures of military performance. Furthermore, available evidence suggests that policy changes associated with the lifting of the ban may have contributed to improvements in productivity and working environments for service members. Key findings include:

  • Senior officials, commanders, and military scholars within the Australian Defence Force (ADF) consistently appraise the lifting of the ban as a successful policy change that has contributed to greater equity and effective working relationships within the ranks. Prior to the lifting of the ban, ADF service chief argued that allowing homosexuals to serve openly would jeopardize recruitment, troop cohesion and combat effectiveness while also spreading AIDS and encouraging predatory behaviour.
  • While the lifting of the ban was not immediately followed by large numbers of personnel declaring their sexual-orientation, by the late 1990s significant numbers of officers and enlisted personnel had successfully and largely uneventfully come out to their peers. Recruitment and retention rates have not suffered as a result of the policy change. As Commodore R. W. Gates of the Royal Australian Navy states in the report, “There was no great peak...where people walked out, and there was no great dip in recruiting. It really was a non-event.”
  • Self-identified gay soldiers, officers, and commanders describe good working relationships in an environment that emphasizes capable and competent job performance under uniform rules of conduct for all personnel. Gay soldiers and commanders have successfully served in recent active deployments in East Timor. Complaints regarding sexual orientation issues comprise less than 5% of the total complaints received by the ADF of incidents of sexual harassment, bullying, and other forms of sexual misconduct. Of 1,400 calls received by an anonymous “Advice Line” maintained by the ADF to help personnel and commanders manage potential misconduct issues since this service was initiated in August 1998, 17 (1.21 percent) have related to sexual orientation issues.
  • Current debates in Australia related to the policy change are now focused on extending equal benefits to the partners of gay servicemembers, rather than on the policy itself. To the degree that harassment issues continue to exist in the Australian Forces, most observers believe that problems faced by women soldiers are more serious than those faced by gay personnel.

The DEFGLIS (Defence Force Gay and Lesbian Information Service) is an unofficial organisation of Regular, Reserve and Civilian members of the Australian Defence Organisation (ADO) who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex and transgender (GLBIT) and allies.


Austria permits homosexuals to serve openly.[4]


The Royal Bahamas Defence Force does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. The government made the announcement in 1998.[5][6]


Belgium permits homosexuals to serve openly.[4] In Belgium, the military accepts gay men and lesbians into service. However, if the behaviour of an individual who is gay or lesbian causes problems, that individual is subject to discipline or discharge. In some cases, homosexual personnel have been transferred from their unit if they have been too open with their sexuality. The Belgian military also continues to reserve the right to deny gay and lesbian personnel high-level security clearances, for fear they may be susceptible to blackmail.[7]


The Military of Bermuda does not discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation, as it is formed by random lottery-style conscription. Officially, members of the Bermuda Regiment are prohibited from discriminating against or harassing gay soldiers;[8] such activities, however, are tolerated by officers, to the extent that one conscript described the Regiment as "the most homophobic environment that exists".[9]


As of 1992, lesbians, gays and bisexuals are allowed to openly serve in the military. A study of gays and lesbians in the Canadian military has found that after Canada’s 1992 decision to allow homosexuals to serve openly in its armed forces, military performance did not decline.[10]

The study is the most comprehensive academic study by US researchers of homosexuality in a foreign military ever compiled and reflects an exhaustive inventory of relevant data and research. Its title is "Effects of the 1992 Lifting of Restrictions on Gay and Lesbian Service in the Canadian Forces; Appraising the Evidence".

  • Lifting of restrictions on gay and lesbian service in the Canadian Forces has not led to any change in military performance, unit cohesion, or discipline.
  • Self-identified gay, lesbian, and transsexual members of the Canadian Forces contacted for the study describe good working relationships with peers.
  • The percent of military women who experienced sexual harassment dropped 46% after the ban was lifted. While there were several reasons why harassment declined, one factor was that after the ban was lifted women were free to report assaults without fear that they would be accused of being a lesbian.
  • Before Canada lifted its gay ban, a 1985 survey of 6,500 male soldiers found that 62% said that they would refuse to share showers, undress or sleep in the same room as a gay soldier. After the ban was lifted, follow-up studies found no increase in disciplinary, performance, recruitment, sexual misconduct, or resignation problems.
  • None of the 905 assault cases in the Canadian Forces from November, 1992 (when the ban was lifted) until August, 1995 involved gay bashing or could be attributed to the sexual orientation of one of the parties.

A news article by Canadian journalist, Jon Tattrie, reported on the changed attitude towards the presence of homosexual members of the Canadian Forces in his article "Being Gay in the Military" (Metro Ottawa), quoting Canadian Forces spokesperson Rana Sioufi as saying: “Members who are same-sex partners are entitled to the same respect and dignity as heterosexual married couples or common-law partners.”[11]

In the past 20 years, the Canadian Forces has gone from being a homophobic organization that actively hounded out gay and lesbian members to one of the world’s leading advocates of open integration.

—Jon Tattrie, "Being Gay in the Military", Metro Ottawa, August 20, 2010[11]

Republic of China

The Republic of China (Taiwan) repealed their ban on conscripting gay people into the military in 2002.[12] Following an announcement by the Republic of China Armed Forces that it would end a policy banning gays from guarding high level officials and government installations, scholars and military officials said the decision signaled a bold step for an Asian military force. The policy change was announced after a local newspaper revealed the discriminatory practice, prompting protest demonstrations in Taipei, the nation's capital.

Col. Liu of the ROC Naval Attach said that ending the ban on gays in the military police was "a good thing for a democratic society like ours. I don't think this is really a big deal," he said. "It just means Taiwanese society is more open and there are different choices now. If you're gay and you can do the job, that's fine."[citation needed]


In 1999, the Colombian Constitutional Court ruled that the prohibition of homosexuals from serving in the armed forces is unconstitutional.[13]


Croatia does not have any rules applying to homosexuals serving in the military.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic allows homosexuals to serve openly.[4]


Denmark allows homosexuals to serve openly.[4] In fact, homosexuals have never been banned from serving in the Danish armed forces.[citation needed]

In 1981, discrimination against and harassment of gays in the Danish military were outlawed and are grounds for expulsion. As a result, there are prominent openly gay military leaders in the Danish armed forces and there are no reported cases of threats to gays, morale, or national security.[14]

A study of the conditions for gay men indicates that gay men in the Danish Armed Forces show strength and are respected. The thesis is presented in Hans Henrik Hansen's Master of Public Health-study at the Nordic School of Public Health (NHV). Despite the prevalence of discrimination based on sexual orientation, conditions are generally perceived as unproblematic.[15]


Estonia allows homosexuals to serve openly.[4]


Finland allows homosexuals to serve openly.[4] However, conscripts that request so can be moved to service class B on basis of homosexuality, often shortening service time due to disqualification from leadership training (NCO and officer training).


France allows homosexuals to serve openly.[4] France, like many European countries, legalises homosexual partnerships in a civil partnership, similar to Great Britain. Thus a ban on homosexuality in the Forces does not appear to be logical nor legal, and, in fact, is not in place. However, the wording is quite peculiar. On 5 May 2000 The Independent stated:

  • France's Armed forces will accept homosexuals into its ranks provided they do not attempt to “convert” others. A defence ministry spokesman was quoted: “We have no intention of introducing recruiting criteria that would take into account the personal practices of individuals.”

In France, indifference characterizes the official attitude towards homosexuals in the military. Although homosexuals were not banned from French military service (before military service was suspended in 1998), it is recognized that they may face greater challenges than their heterosexual counterparts. Thus, they were allowed to opt out of military service if they wish by declaring themselves unfit because of their sexual orientation. Commanders and psychiatrists can also discharge gay and lesbian personnel if they feel they are disrupting their units and cannot fit in.[7]


The German Bundeswehr ruled that it is forbidden to discriminate based on sexual orientation. The "Working Committee of Homosexual Employees in the Military Forces"[16] is the organization that represents the interests of gay men and lesbians in the armed forces. Heterosexuals and homosexuals alike are allowed to engage in sexual activity while in the military service as long as it does not interfere with the performance of their duties. Lesbian and gay soldiers are also entitled to enter civil unions as defined by Germany's domestic "partnership" law.[17]

The Bundeswehr maintained a "glass ceiling" policy that effectively banned homosexuals from becoming officers until 2000. First Lieutenant Winfried Stecher, an army officer demoted for his homosexuality, filed a lawsuit against former Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping. Scharping vowed to fight the claim in court, claiming that homosexuality "raises serious doubts about suitability and excludes employment in all functions pertaining to leadership." However, before the case went to trial, the Defense Ministry reversed the discriminatory policy. While the German government declined to issue an official explanation for the reversal, it is widely believed that Scharping was overruled by then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and then Vice-Chancellor Joschka Fischer.

Nowadays, according to general military orders given in the year 2000, tolerance towards all sexual orientations is considered to be part of the duty of military personnel. Sexual relationships and acts amongst soldiers outside service times, regardless of the sexual orientation, are defined to be "irrelevant", regardless of the rank and function of the soldier(s) involved, while harassment or the abuse of functions is considered a transgression, as well as the performance of sexual acts in active service.[18]


While the Presidential Decree 133 (of 2002)[19] allowed people to avoid the draft for deep psycho-sexual problems, it did not ban homosexuals from the army. The newer 2005 law 3421[20] has removed even the wording that could be misconstrued as offensive to homosexuals. In recent years, the Greek army has been shortening the length of conscription and hiring more and more professional soldiers and there hasn't been any incident of someone being fired for homosexuality.

Republic of Ireland

Gay people serve openly in the Irish Defence Forces.[4][21] Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal.[22]

There has been no preclusion since 1993 when male homosexuality was decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland. Since 1993 there has been significant change to make sure that there was no discrimination in terms of public policy. At the same time as an equal age of consent was introduced for heterosexual and homosexual persons, the Irish Defence Forces announced that they would be treating heterosexual and homosexual members equally. Relationships between senior and junior ranks would continue to be forbidden, as is common in most militaries. There would also be no harassment of gay officers and no questioning of members about their sexuality. The Irish Independent wrote that

In a related development, the Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Noel Bergin, told the Irish Independent on Tuesday that a report on the introduction of a code of conduct governing interpersonal relationships is being prepared. The decision to prepare a report follows a recent announcement by the Minister for Defence, Mr. David Andrews, that military regulations would be modified to take account of any reform in the civil law on homosexuality. Mr Andrews is seen as a member of the liberal wing of the Fianna Fáil party. Lt. Gen Bergin pointed out that the Army does not ask potential recruits about their sexual orientation, and that they had few problems in the past in this area.[23]

The then Minister for Defence David Andrews stated in the Oireachtas (parliament) that "While the question of homosexuality is not specifically covered in Defence Force Regulations the provisions of section 169 of the Defence Act, 1954, provide that acts which are in breach of the criminal law of the State are also deemed to be offences against military law."

Information regarding sexual orientation is not sought from personnel wishing to enlist in the Defence Forces and it is not proposed to change this policy. The Defence forces have a code on interpersonal relationships and guidelines in relation to discrimination.


Israel Defense Forces policies allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly and without discrimination or harassment due to actual or perceived sexual orientation.[24] This was put into effect in 1993 after an IDF reserves officer testified before the Knesset claiming that his rank had been revoked, and that he had been barred from researching sensitive topics in military intelligence, solely because of his sexual identity.

Homosexuals serve openly in the military, including special units, without any discrimination.[25][26] Moreover, gays in the IDF have additional rights, such as the right to take a shower alone if they want to. According to a University of California, Santa Barbara study,[27] a brigadier general stated that Israelis show a "great tolerance" for gay soldiers. Consul David Saranga at the Israeli Consulate in New York, who was interviewed by the St. Petersburg Times, said, “It's a non-issue. You can be a very good officer, a creative one, a brave one, and be gay at the same time.”[25]

Uncloseted gays in the Jewish state are treated no differently than straights. Mandatory service draws every 18-year-old man and woman into the national service, with the exception of certain Ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects.

In a comprehensive review of interviews with all known experts on homosexuality in the IDF in 2004,[28] researchers were not able to find any data suggesting that Israel’s decision to lift its gay ban undermined operational effectiveness, combat readiness, unit cohesion or morale. In this security-conscious country where the military is considered to be essential to the continued existence of the nation, the decision to include sexual minorities has not harmed IDF effectiveness. In addition, while no official statistics are available for harassment rates of sexual minorities in the IDF, scholars, military officials and representatives of gay organizations alike assert that vicious harassment is rare.

Israel takes the position that gays in the closet (those who, for example, may have informed their superiors of their sexual orientation, but on a confidential basis) cannot get security-sensitive jobs while those who are out can work anywhere.[29]


The Armed Forces of Italy cannot deny men or women of homosexual orientation to serve within their ranks, as this would be a violation of Constitutional rights. However, much prejudice about homosexuals still exists within the Italian armed forces, so that they generally decide to hide their sexual orientation.[citation needed] In the past, homosexual conduct was grounds for being discharged from the Italian armed forces for reason of insanity, and feigning homosexuality was a very popular way to obtain medical rejection and skip draft.[citation needed]


Japan does not have any rules applying to homosexuals serving in the military.[30]


Lithuania allows homosexuals to serve openly.[4]


Luxembourg allows homosexuals to serve openly.[4]


Malta allows gay and lesbian people to serve openly in the armed forces. According to the Armed Forces of Malta, a number of openly gay people serve in the AFM, and the official attitude is one of "live and let live", where "a person’s postings and duties depend on their qualifications, not their sexual orientation".[31]


In 1974, the Netherlands was the first country to ban discrimination against gays in the military.[32] An estimated 12,000 soldiers, 10% of the total force, are gay. The Dutch government considered homosexuality grounds for dismissal until 1974, when the Association of Dutch Homosexuals convinced the minister of defence that gays posed no threat to national security. Nevertheless, gays could still legally be passed over for promotion simply because of their sexual orientation.

In 1986, Rene Holtel, then a major, was told by his commander that though he was an excellent officer, "he wouldn't want me to rise in rank because I was gay." Holtel went to his superiors and fought the camouflage ceiling, which was abolished in 1987, leading to the birth of the Foundation for Homosexuality in the Military, which Holtel, now elevated to lieutenant colonel, chairs.

The Dutch success stems from its effort to educate soldiers. Already required of officers and noncommissioned officers in the air force, and soon to be mandatory in the army and navy, is a four-day course known as Een Kwestie van Kijken, which roughly translates to "It's in the eye of the beholder." The seminar is designed to teach sensitivity toward minorities in the military, in particular women, blacks, and gays. Apparently it works. Rob Segaar, a 29-year-old veteran of the navy, summed up the Dutch attitude this way: "Suppose you're on the beach in a skimpy bathing suit. The guy next to you might be gay. Does that harm your morale? Is that dangerous?" Army doctors, priests, and psychiatrists will soon be required to complete coursework that will enable them to offer guidance to soldiers struggling with the decision to "come out." The Dutch department of defence recently published a booklet on homosexuality containing pictures of a lesbian couple embracing near a ship and a young man greeting his boyfriend in Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport after a stint in Lebanon.

The Netherlands is the most tolerant of homosexuality of the European militaries. It has integrated gays and lesbians more fully than any other country. Yet Dutch scholars and activists continue to call for even greater efforts to remedy the subtle problems that remain. Since the cultural revolutions of the 1960s, the Netherlands has been known for its general cultural tolerance of homosexuality, which has in turn influenced the military's policy on gays and lesbians. Marion Anderson-Boers and Jan van der Meulen report that since the 1980s the Dutch people have largely come to a consensus on the issue of homosexuality. They note that polls have repeatedly shown that more than 90 percent of the public agree with the statement, "Homosexuals should have as much freedom as possible to lead their own lives."[7]

In the 1970s the Dutch military ceased to consider homosexuality a reason to prevent individuals from entering the military. This policy change coincided with larger legal changes in the Netherlands, which included changing age of consent laws for same-sex contact to 16, the same as for heterosexual contact, and incorporating an anti-discrimination clause addressing sexual orientation in the Dutch constitution. Yet officially allowing homosexuals to serve was only the first step in creating a more tolerant military culture. The Dutch military formed a working group called Homosexuality and Armed Forces to improve the climate for sexual minorities. In the 1980s, this group became the Homosexuality and Armed Forces Foundation, a trade union that continues to represent gay and lesbian personnel to the ministry of defence.[7]

Although homosexuals in the Dutch military rarely experience any explicitly aggressive acts against them, they are troubled by subtle signs of homophobia and cultural insensitivity on the part of their heterosexual colleagues. Gay and lesbian military personnel are highly sensitive to these attitudes and typically respond by not expecting a high level of acceptance from their heterosexual colleagues, at least in terms of their sexual orientation. Even so, a high level of loyalty characterizes homosexual personnel in the Dutch military. Indeed, research suggests that, given the difficulties they face, "only the most highly motivated, loyal homosexuals will choose a career in the armed services and persist in it." In spite of the difficulties in fully integrating sexual minorities, the Dutch military continues to work to promote their inclusion. The Dutch military sees its duty as creating "the conditions under which all individuals can function fully." This acceptance of all types of people distinguishes the Dutch military from many other European militaries.[7]

New Zealand

In New Zealand it has been legal for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons to serve in the military since New Zealand's Human Rights Act 1993 ended most forms of employment discrimination against lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. New Zealand military leaders did not oppose the end of military service discrimination [33][34]

After the passing of the Human Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on grounds such as ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. As the act came into law, so came the removal of a passage in the NZDF manual of law that referred to homosexuality as an "unnatural offence". Before 1993, even though the Homosexual Law Reform Act had been passed in 1986, officer training included the actions they ought to take upon the discovery of personnel caught in such "unnatural" acts. The DEFGLIS NZ (Defence Force Gay and Lesbian Information Service) is being formed and will be set up by Christmas 2010. Officers involved hope the support network will act as a sounding board, advice group and social network for regular, reserve and civilian members of the troops. Part of the group's role will be to advise on using inclusive words such as partner instead of wife, or letting people know that a saying such as "that's gay" has made it into common parlance while the term "homo" is offensive.

As chief instructor of the joint services health school, Wood turns new recruits from army, navy and air force into "operationally deployable medics". "My staff relate to me as their major, their boss. I'm not their gay major, or their gay boss," he says. In his 30-year career with the army, Wood has attended conferences with officers from American services. The notable difference is that Wood can stand alongside his partner of seven years, Gerald Johnstone, and introduce him as such. "The reaction is quite interesting," Wood says. "It just feels so right to include your partner and I'm proud to come from a country that enables us to be who we are. Wood says he had "absolutely no issue" being an openly gay man in the army, which he puts down to the combination of having a strong personality, being articulate and the fact that he works in a specialist area. Being openly gay, Wood says he is sometimes approached by commanding officers wanting advice on how to react when a subordinate comes out or by newly enlisted people wondering about the best way to break their news to colleagues.[35]


Norway has allowed homosexuals to serve openly in the armed forces since 1979.[4][36] Norway, like most of Scandinavia, is very liberal in regards to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights and it also became the first country in the world to enact an anti-discrimination law protecting homosexuals in certain areas.

The Norwegian government states that "Anyone who in written or verbal form is threatening, scorning, persecuting, or spiteful toward a gay or lesbian person will be punished with fines or prison of up to two years."[37]


Until December 2009, Peru had a ban on openly gay people in the armed forces. However, in December 2009, the Supreme Court of Peru held that sexual orientation cannot be a requirement for entry into the police force or the military. The Government accepted the decision.[38] The ruling said "sexual preference of an individual cannot be a requirement or condition to determine his/her capacity or professional competence, including the police and military career. To state this is not only anachronistic, but it violates the principle of human dignity"


The Philippine government has officially ended, as of 2010, the ban on gays in the military.[2]


Poland allows gays to serve openly in the military.[39]


Homosexuals are allowed to serve openly in the Romanian army. According to the Ministry of Defence's recruitment policy, "it is the right of every Romanian citizen to take part in the military structures of our country, regardless of their sexual orientation."[40]


Before 1993, homosexual acts between consenting males were against the law in Russia,[41] and homosexuality was considered a mental disorder until adoption of ICD-10 in 1999,[42] but even after that military medical expertise statute was in force to continue considering homosexuality a mental disorder which was a reason to deny homosexuals to serve in the military. In 2003, a new military medical expertise statute was adopted; it said people “who have problems with their identity and sexual preferences” can only be drafted during war times.[43] However, this clause contradicted another clause of the same statute which stated that different sexual orientation should not be considered a deviation. This ambiguity was resolved by the Major-General of the Medical Service who clearly stated that new medical statute “does not forbid people of non-standard sexual orientation from serving in the military.”[44] Thereby, as of July 1, 2003 (2003 -07-01), homosexual people in Russia can serve in the military.


In May 2010, the head of the Serbian military (Vojska Srbije) announced that the Serbian Army would accept homosexuals to join. However, this news was not widely covered by media.[45]


Slovenia allows homosexuals to serve openly without discrimination or harassment due to actual or perceived sexual orientation. [46]

South Africa

LGBT people are allowed to serve openly in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).[4] The Constitution of South Africa adopted in 1997, and the Interim Constitution that preceded it in 1994, prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In 1996 the government adopted the White Paper on National Defence, which included the statement that, "[i]n accordance with the Constitution, the SANDF shall not discriminate against any of its members on the grounds of sexual orientation."[47] In 1998 the Department of Defence adopted a Policy on Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, under which recruits may not be questioned about their sexual orientation and the Defence Force officially takes no interest in the lawful sexual behaviour of its members.[48] In 2002 the SANDF extended spousal medical and pension benefits to "partners in a permanent life-partnership".[48]


Homosexuals are allowed to serve openly in the Spanish Army. As of 2009, after the case of Aitor G.R, the courts also ruled that transgender individuals are also permitted to serve in the military.[49]


Sweden allows homosexuals to serve openly.[4] Homosexuals are not banned from military service. The Swedish Armed Forces actively work for an environment where LGBT persons do not feel it to be necessary to hide their orientation.[50]


Switzerland's military policies also allow for gay men and lesbians to serve openly without discrimination or harassment due to actual or perceived sexual orientation.[17]


In 2005, the Thai armed forces lifted its ban on LGBT serving in the military. Prior to this reform, LGBT people were exempted as suffering from a "mental disorder" law of 1954.

United Kingdom

Lifting the Ban

Until 2000, the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) policy was to continue the long standing ban on homosexuals joining any of the Armed Forces, most recently being based on a 1996 report by the Homosexuality Policy Assessment Team, which asserted that to allow gays in the military would be bad for morale, and leave them vulnerable to blackmail from foreign intelligence agencies. As a consequence, around 60 people were dismissed annually from the services for being gay.[citation needed] A legal challenge to this stance was taken up by four people who had been investigated and dismissed for being gay — a female nurse and male administrator dismissed from the Royal Air Force, and a Lieutenant Commander and naval rating, both males, dismissed from the Royal Navy. Their legal challenge was supported by the pressure groups Liberty and Stonewall. After losing the case at the Court of Appeal in London, they appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. In September 1999, this court ruled that investigations by military authorities into a service person's sexuality breaches their right to privacy (Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights). In light of the ruling (which as an ECHR ruling applies to the militaries of all member states of the EU and of the Council of Europe), the MOD subsequently lifted the ban, and began allowing gay people into the services from 2000 onwards. According to an opinion poll organised by Stonewall a week before the ruling, the ban had been opposed by 70% of Britons.[51]

Today's Policy

The MOD's policy is now to allow homosexual men, lesbians and transgender personnel to serve openly, and discrimination on a sexual orientation basis is forbidden.[17] It is also forbidden for someone to pressure LGBT people to come out. All personnel are subject to the same rules against sexual harassment, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Since the military began allowing homosexuals to serve, none of its fears about harassment, discord, blackmail, bullying or an erosion of unit cohesion or military effectiveness have come to pass, according to the MOD, current and former members of the services and academics specializing in the military. The biggest news about the policy, they say, is that there is no news. It has for the most part become a non-issue. The MOD deliberately does not compile figures on how many gay men and lesbians are openly serving, as it is not an issue, but does believe that the number of people who have come out publicly in the past seven years is still relatively low compared to the national norm. It is however clearly proud of how smoothly homosexuals have been integrated and is trying to make life easier for them.

The British military actively recruits gay men and lesbians, all three services have deployed recruiting teams to gay pride events, and punishes any instance of intolerance or bullying. The Royal Navy advertises for recruits in gay magazines and has allowed gay sailors to hold civil partnership ceremonies on board ships and, since 2006, to march in full naval uniform at a gay pride marches. British Army and Royal Air Force personnel could march but had to wear civilian clothes until 2008, now all military personnel are permitted to attend Gay Pride marches in uniform.[52]

Speaking at a conference sponsored by the gay advocacy group Stonewall in 2006, Vice Admiral Adrian Johns, the Second Sea Lord, said that homosexuals had always served in the military but in the past had to do it secretly. “That’s an unhealthy way to be, to try and keep a secret life in the armed services,” said Vice Admiral Johns, who as the Royal Navy’s principal personnel officer was responsible for about 39,000 sailors. His speech was titled “Reaping the Rewards of a Gay-Friendly Workplace.”

The current policy was accepted at the lower ranks first, with many senior officers worrying for their troops without a modern acceptance of homosexuality that their personnel had grown up with, one Brigadier resigned[53] but with little impact. Since the change support at the senior level has grown. General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff (head of the Army), told members of the Army-sponsored Fourth Joint Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual Matters that homosexuals were welcome to serve in the Army. In a speech to the conference in 2008, the first of its kind by any Army chief, General Sir Richard said that respect for gays, lesbian, bi-sexual and transsexual officers and soldiers was now "a command responsibility" and was vital for "operational effectiveness".

Equality and diversity

The Royal Navy were the leaders in all aspects of early LGBT policy. The Royal Navy considers people as the heart of the Naval Service capability,[54] the most important factor in delivering operational effectiveness. The Naval Service welcomes and appreciates differences in sex, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.[54] The Naval Service’s commitment to Equality and Diversity extends beyond its legal responsibility to prevent unlawful discrimination.[54]

The British Army requires all soldiers to undergo Equality and Diversity training as part of their Military Annual Training Tests and stress tolerance, specifically citing homosexual examples in training videos, in line with the British Army Core Values and Standards, including 'Respect for Others' and 'Appropriate Behaviour'. It considers its Core Values and standards as central to being a professional soldier.

The British Military immediately recognised civil partnerships and granted gay couples exactly the same rights to allowances and housing as straight couples. The MoD stated "We're pleased personnel registered in a same sex relationship now have equal rights to married couples."[55] The Royal Navy has conducted civil partnership ceremonies on ships and the British Army has held same-sex marriage celebrations in barracks.[56]

Ten Years On

In 2009, the tenth anniversary of the change of law that permitted homosexuality in the Armed Forces, it was generally accepted by all that the lifting of the ban had no perceivable impact on the operational effectiveness on a military that still considers itself world class. The anniversary was widely celebrated, including in the Army's in house publication Soldier Magazine, with a series of articles including the July 2009 Cover Story and articles in all the many national newspapers.

In 2010, following defeat of repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' by the United States Senate, the Colonel Mark Abraham, head of diversity for the British Army, told People Management magazine the lifting of the ban on gays serving in the military in 2000 had "no notable change at all... We got to the point where the policy was incompatible with military service and there was a lack of logic and evidence to support it... We knew a lot of gay and lesbian people were serving quite successfully, and it was clear that sexual orientation wasn’t an indication of how good a soldier or officer you could be... The reality was that those serving in the army were the same people the day after we lifted the ban, so there was no notable change at all. Everybody carried on with their duties and had the same working relationships as they previously had while the ban was in place" Colonel Abraham argues that the lifting of the ban actually made the armed forces more productive: "A lot of gay and lesbian soldiers who were in the army before the ban was lifted, reported that a percentage of their efforts was spent looking over their shoulder and ensuring they weren’t going to be caught. That percentage of time can now be devoted to work and their home life, so actually they are more effective than they were before."[57]

Proud2Serve is a support group that provides advice and support to serving and prospective members of the British Armed Forces.

United States

Homosexuals are allowed to serve openly in the United States military. Military policy and legislation had previously entirely prohibited gay individuals from serving, and subsequently from serving openly, but these prohibitions were ended in September 2011 after the U.S. Congress voted to repeal the policy.

Homosexuals were officially prohibited from serving in the United States throughout its history. The first time "homosexual" people were differentiated from "normal" people in the military literature was in revised army mobilization regulations in 1942. Additional policy revisions in 1944 and 1947 further codified the ban. Throughout the next few decades, homosexuals were routinely discharged, regardless of whether they had engaged in sexual conduct while serving. In response to the gay rights movements of the 1970s and 1980s, the Department of Defense issued a 1982 policy (DOD Directive 1332.14) stating that homosexuality was clearly incompatible with military service. Controversy over this policy created political pressure to amend the policy, with socially liberal efforts seeking a repeal of the ban and socially conservative groups wishing to enshrine it into statute law.

A legislative policy was enacted in a 1993 bill signed by President Bill Clinton, under which homosexuals were prohibited from serving in the military and their discharge was required. However, investigation into a member's sexuality without suspicion was also prohibited. This policy, known as "Don't ask, don't tell," was seen as a compromise between the two political efforts. Pressure to overturn the ban continued to build throughout the 1990s and 2000s, as public opposition to gay rights waned. President Barack Obama promised at the start of his administration to overturn the policy and remove all military restrictions on sexual orientation. He signed a bill into law in December 2010 which creates a future pathway to allow homosexuals to serve in the military,[58] and announced in his 2011 State of the Union address that he expects it to be complete by the end of the year. Under the terms of the bill, the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy remains in place until the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs certify that repeal will not harm military readiness, followed by a 60 days waiting period.[59][60][61] In early 2011 military leaders began issuing training plans for the expected repeal.[60][62][63] A court order on July 6, 2011, required the Pentagon to immediately suspend the policy, which the government complied with. The legislative repeal of the ban took effect on September 20, 2011.[64][65]


Gays were prohibited from serving in the Uruguayan armed forces under the 1973–1985 military dictatorship, however this prohibition was lifted in 2009 when a new decree was signed by Defence Minister Jose Bayardi which provided that sexual orientation would no longer be considered a reason to prevent people from entering the armed forces.[66][67]

Countries that disallow homosexuals from serving in the military

Countries with ambiguous policies


The Mexican Armed Forces' policy on sexual orientation is ambiguous, leaving gay soldiers in a "legal limbo". Officially, there is no law or policy preventing homosexuals from serving, and applicants are not questioned on the subject. In practice, however, outed gay soldiers are subject to severe harassment and are often discharged. One directive, issued in 2003, described actions "en contra de la moral o de las buenas costumbres dentro y fuera del servicio [sic]" ("contrary to morality or good manners on- and off-duty") as serious misconduct warranting disciplinary action. Other references to morality are found throughout military documents, leaving room for interpretation with regards to sexual orientation. Although there is no clear position from current military leadership, several retired generals have agreed that gay soldiers were usually removed from service either through an encouraged withdrawal or dishonorable discharge.[71]


Officially, homosexuals are banned from military service in Turkey. However, it is not regularly applied in practice. Only military hospitals decide whether the person is homosexual by giving "Physico-sexual disorder" diagnosis. A person must prove his sexual orientation with explicit evidence showing he is involving in a sex act.[72]

Palm Center Research on Gay Military Service

The Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara, produces scholarship designed to improve the quality of public dialogue about critical and controversial public policy issues.[73] Since 1998, the Center has commissioned and disseminated research in the areas of gender, sexuality, and the military. The Centre's research has shown that transitions to policies of equal treatment without regard to sexual orientation have been successful and have had no negative impact on morale, recruitment, retention, readiness or overall combat effectiveness.[74]

Two main factors contributed to the success of transitions to openly gay service:[citation needed]

  • Clear signals of leadership support and a focus on a uniform code of behavior without regard to sexual orientation.
  • Simple training guidelines that communicate the support of leadership, that explain the uniform standards for conduct, and that avoid “sensitivity” training, which can backfire by causing resentment in the ranks.

See also



  1. ^ Singer, Peter. "What Our Military Allies Can Tell Us About The End of Don't Ask, Don't Tell", The Brookings Institution, 7 June 2010.
  2. ^ a b 365gay: Philippines ends ban on gays in military
  3. ^ "Australia Ends a Prohibition On Homosexuals in Military", New York Times, November 24, 1992
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Countries that Allow Military Service by Openly Gay People" (PDF). PalmCenter. June 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  5. ^ No Ban on Gays in The Bahamas Military GayToday - May 1998
  6. ^ Bahamas Military Allows Gays ILGA - June 2009
  7. ^ a b c d e Military Culture: Europe glbtq: An encyclopaedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture.
  8. ^ Bermuda Regiment Standards of Conduct
  9. ^ Strangeways, Sam (May 26, 2006). Bill's supporters stunned by defeat. The Royal Gazette. Retrieved May 8, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Effects of the 1992 Lifting of Restrictions on Gay and Lesbian Service in the Canadian Forces: Appraising the Evidence". Palm Center. Retrieved 12 December 2010. 
  11. ^ a b Tattrie, Jon (20 August 2010). "Being Gay in the Military". Metro Ottawa.
  12. ^ "Asia's Silence on Gays in Military Broken by Taiwan". PalmCenter. May 15, 2002. Retrieved 2 June 2010. 
  13. ^ Sí A Homosexuales, Con Discreción
  14. ^ Konigsberg, Eric (November, 1992). "Gays in arms: can gays in the military work? In countries around the world, they already do". The Washington Monthly. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  15. ^ Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Denmark. – a study of the experiences and perceptions of six homosexual men in the Danish Armed Forces Associated professor Ina Borup, NHV — Nordic School of Public Health, Jan 2010.
  16. ^ A.H.s.A.B. – Arbeitskreis homosexueller Angehöriger der Bundeswehr (Site is only in German)
  17. ^ a b c Queer:Argentinien und die Philippinen beenden Homo-Verbot im Militär (German)
  18. ^ Cf. two orders of 2000: German Military Forces (Bundeswehr) (2000). "Anlage B 173 zu ZDv 14/3" (in German). Working Group 'Homosexuals in the Bundeswehr'. Retrieved 24 December 2008. [dead link]; and Inspector General of the German Military Forces (Bundeswehr) (2000). "Führungshilfe für Vorgesetzte – Sexualität" (in German). Working Group 'Homosexuals in the Bundeswehr'. Retrieved 24 December 2008. [dead link]
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Irish Defence Forces - Equality and Diversity Policy
  22. ^ Cathal Kelly, International Secretary of the National Lesbian and Gay Foundation, which implements recent equality legislation in Ireland, says that the Employment Equality Act of 1998 applies to the Irish military.
  23. ^ The Irish Independent, May 1993
  24. ^ Second Thoughts on Gays in the Military, By JOHN M. SHALIKASHVILI, January 2, 2007.
  25. ^ a b Eichner, Itamar (2007-02-08). "Follow Israel's example on gays in the military, US study says". Ynetnews.,7340,L-3362505,00.html. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  26. ^ The chief of staff's policy states that it is strictly forbidden to harm or hurt anyone's dignity or feeling based on their gender or sexual orientation in any way, including signs, slogans, pictures, poems, lectures, any means of guidance, propaganda, publishing, voicing, and utterance.
  27. ^ Homosexuality and the Israel Defense Forces: Did Lifting the Gay Ban Undermine Military Performance?
  28. ^ Did Lifting the Gay Ban Undermine Military Performance? Palm Centre, Jun 04.
  29. ^ Gays in arms: can gays in the military work? In countries around the world, they already do. Washington Monthly, Nov 1992.
  30. ^ Palm Center, Asia's Silence on gays in Military Broken by Taiwan, May 15, 2002 press release,
  31. ^ AFM denies discrimination on basis of sexual orientation, The Malta Independent
  32. ^ Shilts, p. 572
  33. ^ Gays in the military
  34. ^ Estrada, Armando. Attitudes of Military Personnel Toward Homosexuals. Journal Of Homosexuality, 37(4), 83
  35. ^ Eleven, Beck (30 October 2010). "Out and proud". The Press. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  36. ^
  37. ^ Gays in arms: can gays in the military work? In countries around the world, they already do Washington Monthly, Nov 1992.
  38. ^ Peru's Constitutional Court ordered Police School to accept expelled Gay Student
  39. ^ [Homosexuals are allowed to serve openly in the Romanian army.]
  40. ^,182428.html
  41. ^ "Russia: Update to RUS13194 of 16 February 1993 on the treatment of homosexuals". Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 29 February 2000. 
  42. ^ Warner, Nigel (November 1999). "The Russian Federation has dropped “homosexual orientation” from its new classification of mental and behaviour disorders". ILGA Euroletter 75. France QRD. 
  43. ^ "Russian army to ban gays". BBC News (BBC). 13 March 2003. 
  44. ^ "Gays are not Willingly Accepted in the Russian Army". Pravda Online. 1 December 2003. 
  45. ^ Serbian news and information website,
  46. ^
  47. ^ "White Paper on National Defence for the Republic of South Africa: Defence in a Democracy". Government of South Africa. 8 May 1996. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  48. ^ a b Belkin, Aaron; Canaday, Margot (2010). "Assessing the integration of gays and lesbians into the South African National Defence Force". Scientia Militaria (Stellenbosch University) 38 (2): 1–21. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  49. ^ Transexuales en el Ejército Español, Miguel Ruiz, Feb. 10, 2009
  50. ^
  51. ^ UK Gays win military legal battle BBC News, 27 September 1999
  52. ^ Barr, Damian; Bannerman, Lucy (June 14, 2008). "Soldiers can wear their uniforms with pride at gay parade says MoD". The Times (London). Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  53. ^ "Brigadier quits over gays in military". BBC News (BBC). 27 January 2000. 
  54. ^ a b c Royal Navy Diversity Web Page
  55. ^ [ And the brides wore combats
  56. ^ A very modern military partnership
  57. ^ British Army believe lifting ban improved performance
  58. ^ Repeal to be Signed Wednesday
  59. ^ "Gates open to ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ before leaving". The Washington Post. June 13, 2011. 
  60. ^ a b Anna Mulrine (April 4, 2011). The Christian Science Monitor. Pentagon: 'Don't ask, don't tell' could be gone by September. 
  61. ^ Sheryl Gay Stolberg (December 22, 2010). "With Obama's Signature, 'Don't Ask' Is Repealed". The New York Times. Retrieved December 22, 2010. 
  62. ^ "Ending 'don't ask, don't tell' doesn't end problems facing gay service members". The Washington Post. February 13, 2011. 
  63. ^ "Navy set training for don't ask, don't tell repeal". Yahoo! News. February 8, 2011. 
  64. ^
  65. ^ Barnes, Julian E. (July 22, 2011). "Military Gay Ban to End in 60 Days". Wall Street Journal. 
  66. ^ [1] Huffington Post: Uruguay To Lift Ban On Gays In The Military, 14 May 2009,
  67. ^ "Uruguay lifts military gay ban". Pink News. 2009-05-18. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  68. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at Wechsler Segal, Mady (2003). Armed forces and international security: global trends and issues. Transaction. p. 218. ISBN 3-8258-7227-0. 
  69. ^ South Korea asks court to retain ban on gays in the military
  70. ^ Facing hate crime in Turkey – BBC
  71. ^ Medellín, Jorge Alejandro (October 17, 2010). "Homosexualidad y Ejército [Homosexuality and the Military]" (in Spanish). M Semanal (Milenio). 
  72. ^ Piotr Zalewski. "How To Prove A Turk Is Gay". The Atlantic. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  73. ^ About the Center. Palm Center, University of California.
  74. ^

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