Gay groups to fight forces ban

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The Independent Online

Chief Political Correspondent

Gay rights activists last night warned the Ministry of Defence they would be going ahead with a legal challenge after the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Portillo, announced the ban on homosexuals in the armed services will stay.

Mr Portillo said the results of a survey of the armed forces to be released today by the MoD showed overwhelming support for the ban on gays to be kept. There will be no compromise between front line troops and support services.

Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group, said it would be challenging the legal basis of the ban within six weeks with an appeal to the House of Lords.

Four gay ex-service people - former Lieutenant Commander Duncan Lustig- Prean, 36, ex-RAF Sergeant Graeme Grady, 32, ex-RAF nurse Jeanette Smith, 28, and former navy weapons engineer John Beckett, 25, are to apply for leave to go to the House of Lords. If they fail in their bid, they will go immediately to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Three Court of Appeal judges ruled last November that the automatic bar on homosexuals in the forces was neither irrational nor unlawful.

The gay rights activists dismissed the MoD survey as biased and unfair. "If you ask them whether male and female homosexuality are equally abhorrent, you are bound to get a skewed result," said a spokeswoman for Stonewall.

Mr Portillo said lifting the ban on gays in the armed forces would be bad for discipline and morale, according to the vast majority of servicemen.

The results of the MoD's long-awaited review of homosexuals in the military will come as a relief to service chiefs who have been fighting to prevent any relaxation of the ban.