Letter: Gay fears of the top brass

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The Independent Online
Sir: After reading your leading article on "Gays in the military" (11 May) twice without discerning a clear argument of principle, I am driven to the conclusion that homosexuals are the only remaining sizeable minority against whom prejudiced slurs are deemed sufficient to justify discrimination.

There are only two valid requirements: an impartial disciplinary code which prohibits any sexual conduct contrary to good order and discipline while on duty or on service premises; and the overdue introduction of a services culture set resolutely against prejudice, discrimination and mistreatment directed at those who belong to racial, religious or sexual minorities.

I vividly recall attending, as secretary of the Homosexual Law Reform Society, the debates that preceded the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, and in particular the ludicrous outburst with which Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein responded to an inquiry as to how other Nato countries with more liberal laws coped with this "problem". "We are not French, and we are not other nationals. We are British, thank God!" our war hero retorted vehemently.

Am I wrong in detecting a whiff of xenophobia, as well as homophobia, in the pronouncements of our present-day service chiefs? Their feverish fantasies of hanky-panky in the barracks showers remind me of the Duke of Wellington's observation that while he didn't know what his troops did to the enemy, they certainly frightened him.

Anthony Grey

London E14