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Monday, September 27, 1999 Published at 05:13 GMT 06:13 UK


Military gay ban ruling due

The four are backed by civil rights group Liberty

The European Court of Human Rights is due to rule on whether the UK government's ban on gay people serving in the armed forces is legal.

Gay rights campaigners are optimistic of winning the case, which would increase pressure on the government to rethink the controversial ban.

The BBC's Joshua Rozenberg: "The tide of history is against the government"
Three ex-servicemen and a former RAF nurse told the court that investigations into their homosexuality, and their subsequent sackings, violated their human rights.

Former RAF nurse Jeanette Smith, ex-RAF administrator Graeme Grady, ex-Royal Navy lieutenant-commander Duncan Lustig-Prean and ex-naval rating John Beckett took their case to the European court after it was rejected by the Appeal Court in London.

'Tide of history'

However, at the 1995 hearing, the Appeal Court admitted their argument had weight. An earlier hearing at the High Court also warned that the "tide of history" was flowing against the Ministry of Defence.

The legal action has been backed by civil rights group Liberty and gay rights group Stonewall, which claims a survey shows that public opinion supports a change.

According to the NOP poll commissioned by the group last week, seven out of 10 Britons believe lesbians and gay men should be allowed to serve in the armed forces.

A ruling in favour of the applicants will not lead to an automatic overturning of the ban in the UK.

Chef considers suing

The government is likely to drag the issue out until 2001 when the Armed Services Bill is due to be reviewed in parliament.

The MoD said it would await the court judgment before commenting substantively on its implications.

Meanwhile, a Royal Navy chef who is almost certainly the last man to be sacked from Britain's armed services for being gay said last week that he was considering suing the MoD.

Richard Young, 25, a reservist at HMS Drake, the Devonport naval base in Plymouth, is angry over losing his job and home after admitting to senior officers that he was gay.

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