Monitor: Reaction in the British press to the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on homosexuals in the armed forces

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The Independent Culture
TODAY IT looks like a long-overdue progressive move. Tomorrow it will look as natural as the right to vote. But before homosexual and lesbian personnel are openly integrated into the British armed services - as the European Court of Human Rights insisted yesterday that they should be - ministers face a battle with the military. No one should underrate the challenge. Our armed services remain among the most reactionary in the Western world. They are not just homophobic, but deeply racist and prejudiced against women, too. Indeed, the main British defence for banning gay service personnel from the services before the European Court was based on the argument that surveys of British military personnel showed them to be uniquely prejudiced. A more intelligently led military would have thought long ago of the dangers of setting themselves apart from the social and the moral values of the society that they are supposed to be defending.

The Guardian

THE MAIL accepts that, down the years, many gays have proved to be brave soldiers. This paper... believes in tolerance. These are the ideals all decent people aspire to in a civilised and civil society. But life on board a submarine in war is a very different matter. This is when men are asked to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country and where lives depend on split-second decisions not fogged by any emotional equivocation. That is why the majority of service chiefs have decided that rules about sexuality should not be overtly broken. Now seven judges, who will almost certainly never have to lay down their lives for their countries, have decided that these chiefs are wrong.

Daily Mail

THE GOVERNMENT'S decision to accept the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights that the exclusion of homosexuals from the Armed Forces is a breach of the Human Rights Convention is probably sensible. To do otherwise would have entailed protracted bickering over points of law, all of which would eventually have been lost. The question is whether men - and women - in the ranks will accept the ruling. Group prejudice is almost impossible to alter because it often defines what the group is and how it works. Military units could, just conceivably, be forced out of their tribalistic attitudes. If that were so, they would cease to be militarily useful. What a hollow triumph for the homosexual lobbies if they succeeded in emasculating the armed forces. (John Keegan)

The Daily Telegraph

THE MILITARY top brass are waving their blunderbusses in predictable horror at being told they may no longer sack lesbians and gay men. Don't these pinkos at the European Court understand that soldiery is about fighting wars, they bellow. And you don't win wars by having a load of nellies mincing about the battlefield. Don't you? Let's not worry for the moment about how Richard Young, the 25-year-old gay chef sacked as a naval reservist last week, put the security of the nation at risk (too much quiche at mess, perhaps, and not enough red meat). Some of the world's bravest fighters have been gay. Major "Mad Mike" Calvert, co-founder of the SAS, was hailed as the most outstanding British soldier since Lawrence of Arabia until he was disgraced in a gay sex trial in 1952. Many of the sacked lesbian and gay service people in the pressure group Rank Outsiders have general service medals. The military chiefs should thank the court for forcing them to keep such people.(Simon Edge)

The Express