June Update from Craig Jones MBE (Executive Chair) and Caroline Paige (Chief Executive)
Welcome to our June update and it seems quite appropriate that in Pride Month we have so much to talk about. The past 4 weeks have proven to be a crucial period in our campaign and although the Independent Review’s Report has been a key focus, it doesn’t mean we have slowed in our commitments to support the community or in our work with a wide range of organisations to raise awareness and build warm welcomes and inclusive support services.
Pride season is upon us and we have enjoyed meeting hundreds of you ‘out and about’ across the UK, many familiar faces and many more new faces. We stepped off with Arran Pride, had a great time marching in Birmingham, and had stands out at Durham, for the first-ever Armed Forces Pride and Durham Pride. We also participated in Pride events in Plymouth and Cardiff. These events enable us to reach LGBT+ Veterans, serving personnel and families who may not be aware of the Review or FWP and they enable us to raise public awareness and support. We’ve been speaking at conferences too, including the Hugh James Military Conference in London and the Wales Armed Forces Community Conference in Cardiff, and our team have been busy representing FWP elsewhere too. You can see some of their recent activities later in the newsletter.
On 1st June our 2-year research project with Northumbria University concluded with the publishing of our research report ‘Lost and Found: The LGBT+ Veteran Community and the Impacts of the Gay Ban’ (our title image).
This crucial, first-of-its-kind research report provides compelling and clear evidence of the need for better services for LGBT+ Veterans and their families. You can read the research here. It is not an easy read as you might well expect, in the absence of the Etherton Report this research amplifies the voices of the veterans, enabling their shocking accounts of the ban and its lifelong impact to be laid bare. We will be forever grateful to the 100+ veterans who contributed, and to the team at Northumbria University who have made it such a comprehensive and important document.
The most anticipated event of this month was the Independent Review’s celebration of the completion of their work at the Imperial War Museum. There were addresses at the event by Dr Andrew Murrison MP, Minister for Defence People, Veterans and Service Families, who as a ban-era veteran added a personal apology that serving personnel were let down so badly. Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff acknowledged the shame, hurt and impact of the ban and his determination to welcome back LGBT+ veterans into the military family. Following our own speech, Minister for Veterans Affairs, Johnny Mercer MP, who was unavoidably unable to attend in person, provided a video message in which he reasserted his commitment to deliver the best possible future for all veterans
The fact that the Government has not announced when the report will be published is totally unacceptable and caused upset and triggering for many who have given evidence. As soon as we became aware of the Government’s intent, FWP switched our campaign and challenged the Government’s decision which risked undermining the trust and confidence of LGBT+ veterans. You would have seen us expressing our disappointment on BBC Breakfast, Newsnight, The Today Programme, on Sky News and in the national press. Media interest has continued and we are extremely grateful to all those who were able to support interviews and recordings by sharing your own experiences. Nothing is more powerful than your own voices. Our message has reached millions, through the BBC, ITV, Sky and GB News tv, Radio 4 and Five Live, LBC, Times Radio, and papers such as the Mirror, Sunday Mirror, The Times, Telegraph, The i, i-news, and in articles such as the Big Issue.
In Parliament, we have spoken cross-party to MPs and to Government Ministers expressing our concerns and we have told them that ‘not publishing is not acceptable’. At the time of writing, there is still no commitment from the Government, and we will step up our action to press for publication until the unvarnished truth of the ban is heard. Later this week we are speaking at the Armed Forces Week Conference in Falmouth, attended by Johnny Mercer MP, who will again hear our views on the lack of progress with publishing the report of the LGBT Veterans’ Independent Review (more later).
Behind the impasse, we know that various departments, such as MOD and the Department of Health, have been proactive in preparing actions and are keen to move forward quickly. Easy reparations must not be held back by the complexities of the financial aspects of agreeing reparations.
Our next Town Hall will provide an update on this and is scheduled for Monday 26th June at 1830. (see details below)
We are confident that the report of the review and our research will help our campaign win through and that we will act to ensure your voices are not muted by the Parliamentary recess, so please don’t feel disillusioned, but we welcome you expressing your concerns and disappointments to those who you feel can help.
One of our greatest strengths is in our numbers. In the next few weeks, our mailing list of LGBT+ Veterans will exceed 600, it’s a staggering milestone achievement and we are now a powerful and active community lobby.
Our message to the Government is very simple – Publish the report of the LGBT Veterans’ Independent Review – now!