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Sunday, November 2, 1997 Published at 18:32 GMT


Gay leaders defend Cenotaph ceremony

Outrage say the ceremony was simple and dignified

Organisers of "Queer Remembrance Day" at the Cenotaph in London have rejected criticism from the Royal British Legion.

[ image: The ceremony remembered the gay victims of Nazism]
The ceremony remembered the gay victims of Nazism
The 200 people who gathered in Whitehall, a week ahead of the official Remembrance service, heard speeches commemorating gay victims of Nazism, and gay servicemen who lost their lives in World War II.

The Legion, representing ex-soldiers, described the event as "distasteful".

But Peter Tatchell, of the gay pressure group Outrage, said: "The British Legion should be joining our ceremony not criticising it.

"Anyone who witnessed this event will see that it was a solemn, dignified ceremony about the lesbian and gay victims of Nazism."

The Legion said the service was "bound to offend many former soldiers". But servicemen who happened to chance upon the ceremony said they were not offended.

Chelsea Pensioner Albert Judge, 85, saluted the assembled gays and lesbians, most of whom wore black, as he walked down Whitehall. "If it's genuine for those sort of people who fought in the Great Wars, I have got nothing against it." said Mr Judge, who served five years in the Royal Navy and 31 years with the Royal Signals.

[ image: The ceremony included speeches and a service]
The ceremony included speeches and a service
Mr Tatchell added: "Gay war veterans are never acknowledged by the British Legion or by the official Remembrance Sunday ceremony.

[ image: 200 gays and lesbians remembered their dead]
200 gays and lesbians remembered their dead
"At least 250,000 gay people served in the armed forces from 1939-45. The current ban on homosexuals in the military is an insult to their service and sacrifice.

"We hope Queer Remembrance Day will raise awareness about the contribution of lesbian and gay service personnel to the defeat of Nazism."

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