London Pride first as army permitted to wear uniform

Adam Lake June 16, 2008
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The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) today welcomed the Ministry of Defence’s decision to permit uniformed Army personnel to march in this year’s pride celebrations.

The event, which will take place on July 5th, will be the first time that all three strands of the military are allowed to march in uniform.

The Commission helped to broker the arrangement after a member of the service approached it’s Chair, Trevor Phillips, to express his concern at the rules prohibiting staff from marching in uniform.

Mr. Phillips subsequently raised the issue with the Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne, and a meeting was arranged between Army officials and Pride organisers to agree the arrangements. EHRC Commissioner Ben Summerskill, who is also Stonewall’s chief executive, was also present at the meeting.

The Commission received a letter from Permanent Under Secretary of State Sir Bill Jeffrey on Friday, confirming he is content for the Army to participate in uniform, and expressing his thanks to the Commission for its help and support in reaching this successful outcome for all concerned.

Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“Just nine years after the landmark ruling to allow gay and lesbian people to serve openly in the military, I am delighted the Ministry of Defence has bravely given the go-ahead to march at Pride in uniform.

“It will be a historic moment, and a true sign of how much has changed.”

“I am pleased the Commission could play a small role in bringing the parties together to pave the way for this change.”

Ben Summerskill, EHRC commissioner and Chief Executive of Stonewall said:

“Having seen Stonewall’s useful work over a number of years with both the Royal Navy and the RAF, we’re delighted that the Army has taken this step forward to demonstrate support for existing and potential personnel.

“We know that this gesture will also be enormously appreciated by those lesbian and gay personnel currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Last summer the three services took a different attitude to personnel wearing uniform to march in Pride London.

The RAF announced that personnel who wore uniform to march in the Pride parade in London would face disciplinary action.

Previously the Chief of the General Staff issued orders banning LGBT Army staff from marching in uniform at the event.

General Sir Richard Dannatt was said to be concerned with a possible breach of the Queen’s Regulations, which bar military personnel from taking part in political activities.

The Royal Navy allowed sailors to march in uniform at Pride and used it as a recruitment opportunity.

Last week LGBT Labour announced that the Minister for Women and Equality will be attending the London Pride event.

Harriet Harman will address the crowd in Trafalgar Square after the main parade, as she did last year.

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