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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 February, 2005, 13:56 GMT
Royal Navy right to promote gay rights?
Royal Navy HMS Scott
The Royal Navy has joined the Stonewall's Diversity Champions Programme to promote gay rights.

Royal Navy spokesman Anton Hanney said the force's existing no-sex policy will remain in place on ships and at naval bases.

Stonewall's chief executive Ben Summerskill said he was optimistic that the Army and the RAF would follow suit. He said the forces staff had become so sophisticated and highly-trained that they could no longer afford to lose them due to prejudice.

Is the Royal Navy right to promote gay rights? Should the Army and the RAF do likewise?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Yet another example of the 'liberal' totalitarians getting their way over common sense. I'm married and straight and would not feel comfortable in close quarters with other women or gay men - does that make me a bigot or is it as I suspect the way the majority feel if not say?
Paul, London, UK

There is legislation protecting gay employment issues. The armed forces should be no different. Its about time!
Craig, Sheffield

I also served in the Royal Navy as a sea-going wren and I know that sharing your living space with 30+ other women is not easy. I have no problem with homosexuals but I'd like to stand up for the rights of heterosexual people. If gay personnel are to serve in the forces why not make it all mixed living quarters where men and women can live together. It would by prejudice to say that a man and woman were more likely to have a sexual relationship than two gay people.
SH, Cardiff

I would like to point out that the Navy is not exercising gay rights - but is exercising equal rights. And who can argue with that?
D, Kent, UK

I think a lot of the points made here will become obsolete as the older entrenched views die off and are simply replaced by younger, more enlightened people who wonder what all the fuss is about.
Aidan, London

As a gay person I really love the support of some of you out there, though some others on here should be ashamed, it is because of the narrow mindedness of people like you that we need a programme like this. Because you are gay does not mean you fancy ever other male you see, catch a grip on reality! Thanks again for those of you voicing your support!
Roy, Belfast, UK

The RN should be applauded for taking this step
Corporal A J K (Ret), Canada
I think the RN should be applauded for taking this step. Canada's Armed Forces have the same policy that the RN is trying to introduce and it's worked for us for years. I even served along several openly gay soldiers.
Corporal A J K (Ret), Canada

Why do so many people, who are probably male, making the assumption that a gay man will be staring at them in the shower? You will probably find that a great many of them will be in a relationship with someone they care a great deal about, they will not sign up to the armed forces, renowned for its homophobic attitudes in the past, just to eyeball other men!
Jo, Chester, UK

I was in the forces for 5 years and as employees we were considered apolitical and asexual. As long as you can do your job, that was all that mattered. The forces really suffer when they try to conform to civilian standards. They run fine on their own.
Jim, London

It amazes me how many people take the attitude that straight men couldn't share a room with gay men. Do they think that they are all sex-mad? Any decent person is quite capable of sharing a room with their preferred sex and controlling themselves. People who think it is "unacceptable" should grow up and come into the 21st century.
Annie, UK

An utter waste of money and resources
Greg Marriott, Saffron Walden, Essex
This is an utter waste of money and resources. At a time when our armed forces are being more and more overstretched, is this really worth any attention at all?
Greg Marriott, Saffron Walden, Essex

Some people feel that the Navy shouldn't be singling out one minority for this attention. When you consider that this very issue was considered illegal only a few years ago then yes, it's important enough to be made an issue of. To Greg Marriot:- It's not a waste of money and resources. To lose highly trained personnel simply because of their sexual orientation is wasteful.
James Robson, Scotland

I'm gay and have served in the RN for the past 3 years. My fellow crew mates know I am and none of them have a problem with it. Partly because they know that I don't let anything interfere with my job and partly because I was honest about it from the start. Honesty, loyalty and doing your job well is far more important to my crew mates and most of the rest of the RN personnel that I have met than who you sleep with. There are the odd one or two individuals but there are in any job.
Greg, UK

But the Royal Navy ISN'T promoting gay rights, it is simply treating everyone equally. Which is the only sensible way to treat a group of people who are going to risk their lives as a team.
John, Fleet, UK

Sorry John, Fleet, UK but the Navy IS promoting gay rights and encouraging gay recruitment. That is the purpose of the policy. Hopefully, it will result in everybody being treated equally and sexual orientation will become a non-issue.
Ken, England UK

Just treat all people as equals
Ieuan Johns, Port Talbot, UK
No public body should actively promote the rights of any group, minority or otherwise. Just treat all people as equals and stop trying to gain free publicity for retracting what was a terrible injustice in the first place. If there is truly any feeling of remorse then compensation should be given to those dishonourable dischargees from all forces over the past 50 years. I can't see that, can you?
Ieuan Johns, Port Talbot, UK

Having served for 5 years in the RN, I can speak from first hand experience. We had exactly the same prejudices when women were allowed to serve on board. Look at them now, it was as if they have been on board for centuries. The same will happen for gay service personnel also.
Neil, Norwich, UK

Are we to believe that there are absolutely NO gay people already currently serving in the armed forces/navy? Let's get real here! Seems to me to be a legalisation of an existing, what's the problem?
Dee, Ballycastle, N.I.

The new policy will be fine in the future
Ted, retired RN officer
In the past sexuality in the armed forces generally only became an 'issue' when inappropriate behaviour undermined discipline in some way. The new policy will be fine in the future just so long as sexuality does not become more important than competence in judging personnel.
Ted, retired RN officer

Hopefully it is actually a minority of people in the UK that hold some of the views here, including the religious nonsense which has been the causation of so many of the world's ills. Well done to the Navy and this comes from someone who's family has served many generations, and can tell a tale or two!
Phil, Harrogate, UK

We all heard the same arguments for not letting women into the armed forces, but they have been proven wrong. Homosexuals served in British forces in WWII and women on the front lines helped Russia turn the tide against the Nazis.
Chris Knell, London

It should pursue a policy of 'don't ask, don't tell' and retain the status quo
Anthony Metcalf, Dubai

The Navy shouldn't actively promote gay rights, just like it shouldn't actively promote the rights of any group who make a lifestyle choice. It should pursue a policy of 'don't ask, don't tell' and retain the status quo.
Anthony Metcalf, Dubai

I am openly gay at work, my colleagues accept me for what I am and my work. I was open about my sexuality when I was employed and told that I was being judged on my ability and qualifications. I find the comments about sharing showers, quarters on ships etc the classic response. How do these people know that they are not already sharing with closeted homosexuals who fear being themselves for fear of the repercussions and treatment that they could receive? Most gay guys I know are aware of the impact their actions have at work and maintain a professional approach.
Jason, Sunbury, UK

Females are not expected to share rooms or showers at the same time as men so why should heterosexual men be expected to share with homosexuals?
Anon, UK

Once again the feelings of the majority are to be ignored for the rights of a minority. I spent six months in the Falklands in 1982. The room I slept in with three others was 6ft wide x 10ft long and in Bosnia a six man Portocabin was 8ft wide x 15ft long. Showers are shared, amongst other places, so where are my rights and thousands like me when we don't want to have to share our time without some one looking at us when we change and shower.

Females are not expected to share rooms or showers at the same time as men so why should heterosexual men be expected to share with homosexuals? Everyone forgets this side of military life when they talk about homosexuals in the armed forces and before the accusations come fast and thick you don't have to be homophobic to think like this.
Anon, UK

To Anon - It appears you don't like gay people very much, and you have the right to this opinion. However, you don't have the right to spend your entire life in a permanent "gay-free zone" - any more than you have the right not to be fancied by ugly women. You also seem to assume that gay men are all uncontrollable nymphomaniacs who would be constantly lusting after their heterosexual colleagues in any combat situation. This may be a common prejudice, but it is complete rubbish.

I have no issue with gays but for their own sakes I don't think they should serve in the armed forces and profess their sexuality openly. Not many members of the armed forces are tolerant to the point where they would gladly accept gays. I do not condone that attitude as I've served in the Army and I believe in the freedom of expression afforded to us in this country and those freedoms are extended to everyone.
Colin S, London

Ah, how predictable, homophobes coming out to play whenever they get the chance. What I wonder would their reaction be upon being reminded that the greatest general in western history, Alexander the Great, was of an orientation they despise. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with someone's competence to carry out a given task. The military should be based on ability and skill nothing else.
Kevin Farrell, Edinburgh

The Royal Navy is wrong to promote gay rights. They should not be involved in people's sex lives. Military personnel are there to do a job. Any fraternisation should incur immediate dismissal from military service, regardless of sexual orientation.
John, North London, UK

Yes, it is long overdue. The Royal Navy is right to promote equal rights. In itself discrimination is a violation of a person's human rights. Prejudice, discrimination, the de-humanization of individuals and groups based on a real or perceived identity continues to be a source of serious human rights abuses. All human beings, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity or sexual identity have the right to be afforded equal treatment and dignity in line with international humanitarian and human rights law.
Paul, London, UK

As usual, the liberal extremists make a big song and dance about their fight for equality when in fact everyone else is just getting on with things
Bill, Bristol

As usual, the liberal extremists make a big song and dance about their fight for equality when in fact everyone else is just getting on with things. If anything people like Stonewall are now perpetuating any discrimination rather than assisting in resolving anything and the sooner they disappear and allow the tolerant majority to get on with life, the better.
Bill, Bristol

At last - if homosexuality wasn't an issue in times of war (WWII) - it shouldn't be a problem in times of peace.
Mark Tidmarsh, Brighton, England

The Royal Navy is not kicking and screaming but moves faster than many corporate businesses with reforms
Sam, London

It has been said before and remains true that life in the military is very different from civilian life. There are not many places where 50 men are expected to sleep in the same mess in close proximity. I am however in favour of the RN's move to promote equality for homosexuals. Furthermore the Royal Navy is not kicking and screaming but moves faster than many corporate businesses with reforms. All this without workers unions! An example to other companies I hope.
Sam, London

As an ex Royal Navy rating who has been to sea on a warship and slept and lived in a mess with 40 some men I can say that a homosexual is a difficult thing to come to terms with. It's all very nice for people who have never been in this situation to say "It's about time" and "What does a person's sexual orientation have to do with it" but to spend nine months cooped up like chickens, sleeping three feet above or below you and not feel awkward is not normal. Let them serve if that is their wish, but please do not publicise your sexuality.
James Jeffrey, expat in US

It's very welcome that the Navy is promoting and accepting gay rights, because although things are far better these days... we have very little in the way of rights. The bigoted comments I see on here reflect the fact that some people cannot see past the sex thing. Love is love people... as long as you uphold the law, do your job/duty well, and don't abuse anyone in life, then does it matter what gender you are attracted to? Gay people have served the country for years in many ways. Wake up to the modern world folks.
Melissa, Heathfield, E Sussex

I think that this is an utter disgrace!
Ian, Belfast

The Royal Navy has nothing to lose and everything to gain. It's can only be a positive move on their part.
Mike Woodcock, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Why do so many people seem to assume that homosexuals will fancy anyone of the same sex? Do straight people fancy every member of the opposite sex? Someone's sexuality does not effect how they perform their job, and I for one am pleased that the Royal Navy is leading the way towards and end to discrimination in the military.
Alex P, N Ireland

Would we be having this discussion if it was about black people? To me, it's not different. Everyone deserves the right to contribute to their country.
Tony, UK

Any sexual activity between serving men and women (especially between those who are in the same unit/ship) is extremely damaging to discipline and moral and should not be allowed. Hence the reluctance to accept women in combat (and in my opinion and many like me they are not suited for it anyway) or to allow homosexuality. Have all these people who are so readily willing to allow it actually served in any of the forces? I would be willing to bet that most if not all have not.
Gordon (Late RE and Light Division), Staffs, UK

This is wrong. By singling out social groups the Navy are proving that they are treating them differently, whereas your colour/race/religion/sex should have nothing to do with why you are accepted into the Navy.
Dan, Leeds

If straight men and women can work together without sexuality becoming an issue, why should there be a problem with straight and gay members of the same sex working as a team? It is now unacceptable in the military to discriminate due to ethnicity or gender (and rightly so), so why should there still be this entrenched culture of homophobia? If you're willing to die to defend your country and are up to the job, what else really matters?
Michael, Cheltenham, UK

Frankly the services aren't ready for this
Anon, London

I agree that gay men and women can do a perfectly good job in the armed forces - I should know, I used to be one of them. However, I disagree with gay men and women in the armed forces because the majority around them will not accept or tolerate it and that will have a damaging affect on the services and the standard of the job they do. Frankly the services aren't ready for this. One day though and I hope in the not to distant future they will.
Anon, London

Why is this an issue at all? The very fact the forces have chosen to make this an issue suggests they still have some sort of hidden problem getting with the times!

The right to join the forces is not down to the ability to do the job. The fact is, men and women are separated on the ships (different cabins), and if this is to go ahead then the gays should have separate cabins also. If a man and woman cannot share a cabin I do not see why a gay person should be able to share with a straight man. If the rights are going to be 'equal' then make them equal!
Mark, UK

Gay or straight, if you're under fire the last thing you're going to think about is whether you want to have sex with the person next to you. I fail to see the problem with having gays in the military. Being gay is not a disability and doesn't affect their ability to do the job in any way.
Alex, Aylesbury, UK

I think the Navy is right to promote gay-rights. Who a person sleeps with does not affect their ability to do a job, as well as the fact that it is nobody else's business anyway.

About time. Homosexuals served their country alongside their straight comrades in both world wars with honour, why can they not do so now?
Helen Greenhalgh, Edinburgh, UK

As a committed Christian I find the notion of homosexuality and lesbianism abhorrent and against the fundamental will of God. Should the Royal Navy promote gay rights? In a word, no.
Ed, UK

To Ed, UK: The Royal Navy is not a vehicle for the forwarding of Christian beliefs, it is a service for the protection of all British citizens and interests. As such, it is fitting that it is welcoming the skills of all capable Brits. A welcome move.
Rob, UK

To Rob, UK: Your point is void insofar as you seem to forget that the commander in chief of all our armed forces is HM Queen. Forgive me if I am wrong but she took an oath that says that she is Defender of the Faith. Allowing homosexuals into the Royal Navy is discrediting our constitutional monarchy and its relationship with the Royal Navy.
Ed, UK

To Ed, UK: The Queen is the head of the Church of England, not some evangelical branch. The Church of England has gay priests. So why can't the Royal Navy?
A Legge, Leeds, UK

I think it is long overdue! About time that we recognise difference, yet are treated all the same.
Dave, Stockport, Cheshire

This is quite a bold move by the Navy, and I applaud them for it. However, it should not be viewed on as just a lip service policy. Acceptance of a person's sexuality is a whole lot different to condoning homosexual relations aboard battle ships. I am pleased this has been clarified by the Navy.
Dan C, Shropshire

Sexuality, like skin colour, is part of who you are, but it is not who you are
Robb Dunphy, Dublin

Why ever not? Does sexuality really affect their duties? No. Sexuality, like skin colour, is part of who you are, but it is not who you are. In this day and age equality is the by-word, and race, religion, gender or sexuality, has nothing to do with how you perform your job unless you let it.
Robb Dunphy, Dublin, Ireland

It never ceases to amaze me how much time and money this country spends trying to appease what is actually a tiny minority of people. There are much larger social issues going unmanaged.
Luke Briner, Weymouth, UK

To Luke Briner, UK: Firstly, this programme is funded by Stonewall, a voluntary organisation financed by private donations. Secondly, there are around four million gay people in Britain, which is more than the entire population of Ireland - so this can hardly be described as a tiny minority.
Tim, London

As long as they respect the discipline, don't scream for special privileges, and are prepared to go and die alongside their colleagues, then fine.
Mark H, UK

No, it should not. It shouldn't have been legalised in the forces at all.
Matt, Coventry, England

The British armed services are just starting to come to terms with sexual diversity. Destroying the myths about homosexuality in the military means recruitment can focus on what is important, without being influenced by archaic belief systems. It's about time this happened in the UK, since it has worked well elsewhere.
Dan, London, England

It is entirely right and decent to allow homosexuals into our armed forces and that they have equal rights, however that is as far as we need to go. Positive discrimination is still discrimination.
Oliver, UK

About time too. Why should the armed forces be allowed to break the law and discriminate against gays and lesbians. They have always had archaic rules and it is good to see them being dragged, albeit kicking and screaming into the 21st century. There is no room for bigots in this country and that includes the military.
Karen Smith, London, UK

Of course the Navy is right in doing this. If you are deemed good enough to join the armed services because of the aptitude and skills you have what difference does it make if you're gay? If it in some way made you less able then how have some gay people managed to join the services just by keeping quiet about their sexual preferences?
Dave, Nottingham, UK

A sensational headline to promote what is normal employment practice. The armed services need quality employees, what they do behind closed doors and in their own time as long as it is legal, is not an issue.
Gavin, Hull, UK


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