27 February 2021
Military personnel who were dismissed from the armed forces because of their sexuality can now reclaim medals that were stripped from them.
Following the successful battle of Falklands veteran Joe Ousalice to have his medals returned after being dismissed from the Royal Navy for being bisexual, a new scheme has been launched by the Ministry of Defence. Former service personnel who were forced out and had their medals removed can apply to the MoD to restore honours. The MoD commented that its past actions were ‘Deeply regrettable’ and that the new scheme was to remedy historical injustices.
The ban on lesbian, gay, and bisexual people serving in the armed forces was lifted in 2000 by the Labour Party while that on transgender people was only removed in 2014.
The Defence Minister Baroness Goldie explained that thanks to being dismissed from the services, LGBT personal had, “Forfeited medals that they had earned” and lost out on awards given for long service. She added, “I am very pleased now to be in a position to address this wrong and to invite any personnel affected or, in some circumstances, the families of those who are deceased to apply to have their medals returned.”
It was the case of Joe Ousalice, from Southampton, that prompted the MoD to launch the new scheme. Joe had campaigned to have his Long Service and Good Conduct medal returned, plus three Good Conduct badges, from an 18-year service as a radio operator, that were stripped from him after being dismissed in 1993.
In an interview with the BBC last year, Joe recalled the experience, “I had to be careful about what I said and did, and where I went. Basically, I wasn't living my own life. They cut [the medal] off my chest with a big pair of scissors.”
The Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan, of the Labour Party, said the announcement was, “An important step towards justice for those dismissed from the army because of their sexuality.” He also called on the Government to consider restoring ranks, pensions and other forms of compensation to those who have served the country with courage and distinction.
Meanwhile, Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer said that the announcement, “Demonstrates that the military is a positive place to work for all who choose to serve.”
All applications for the restoration of awards will be reviewed by the Defence Council. The MoD’s medal office will arrange replacement honours to be awarded to those who are successful.
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