Gay ban is based on bias alone

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Well bless my soul, the ban on gays in the military is to stay - hardly the most surprising news of the day. After all, the MoD made crystal-clear from the outset that the internal review was intended to support its view that all lesbians and gays in the forces, however good their records, should automatically be sacked.

A series of leaks, interviews by admirals to regional newspapers, and "off-the-record" briefings to friendly journalists over the past six months made it impossible for the survey of 13,500 servicemen and women to be genuinely impartial. The questions were loaded - "Do you agree that all homosexual acts are perverted?" And the supposedly anonymous forms asked respondents details of their unit, length of service, rank, branch and place of birth. No sane serviceman or woman can seriously have believed they were giving genuinely anonymous information - and it was clear from the press what their bosses wanted them to say.

Since when did the British armed forces become a democracy? It's a lovely idea and I've already started writing the new questionnaire. Do you agree or disagree with the following statements? I would like to serve in Northern Ireland. Black and/or Asian people look inappropriate in Brigade of Guards uniforms. The Scottish infantry regiments should be decimated. Hands up those who want to go to Bosnia.

What does the review actually tell us? The only "fact" in the whole 242 pages (plus appendices) is the announcement that lots of people in the forces are homophobic - it really has been a great day for revelations. But since when did the existence of prejudice become the justification for its own continuance?

The review team looked at countries where the ban has been lifted,and concluded that no evidence could be found that lifting the ban has not impaired military effectiveness. The only answer to a test that strict would be to look for a marked improvement in military effectiveness after the ban was lifted - and even I accept that might be a little optimistic.

The review demolishes all the basic arguments that the MoD has used in defence of the ban over the last couple of years. It says that arguments about "security" fears and worries about the care of young people no longer hold water. All that is left is the prejudice - the fears of ordinary serving men and women - that gays simply aren't up to the job.

Well, the fact is that in most of the Western world lesbians and gays serve happily and successfully, even in Israel, the most combat-hardened force in the world. The MoD has admitted in this report that the ban is based on prejudice alone - how on earth can it continue now?

The writer was a junior naval officer; he was dismissed in 1988 after "coming out" voluntarily.