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The BBC's Andrew Gilligan
"He has resigned because the governments decision on gays is incompatible with his beliefs"
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Thursday, 27 January, 2000, 02:07 GMT
Brigadier quits over gays in military

British soldiers training in Canada Critics say homosexuals are bad for military morale

A British Army brigadier has quit over the government's decision to allow gays into the forces.

Brigadier Pat Lawless, 44, said he could not reconcile his "strongly held moral and military convictions as a soldier and a citizen with the government's decision to lift the ban".

He said he had handed in his notice earlier this month but added: "There is a lengthy process involved in nominating my replacement and I have agreed to serving on until mid-2001, subject to the needs of the service."

Brigadier Pat Lawless: "I shall be very sad to leave"
Brigadier Lawless told The Sun newspaper: "The decision - a very private matter - was reached only after extensive reflection. I shall be very sad to leave.

"I am extremely proud of the Army and its achievements, and feel privileged to have served with officers and soldiers of such integrity and calibre."

Brigadier Lawless, who is married with two children, was commissioned into the Army Air Corps in 1976.

He was recently made deputy commander of the Wiltshire-based Joint Helicopter Command, which combines servicemen from the Army, Navy and RAF.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "It is very unfortunate when individuals decide to leave. However it is very much a personal matter for Brigadier Lawless, and we obviously respect that.

"As far as the policy change is concerned, it is something we were required to put through once the European Court (of Human Rights) ruled against our previous stance.

"Service chiefs have made it clear that they are committed to making the new policy work, and that operational effectiveness will be maintained."

The MoD spokesman said Brig Lawless' resignation would not affect the operational effectiveness of his unit.

'Let the forces decide'

Shadow defence secretary Iain Duncan Smith leapt on the officer's resignation as proof that many senior officers were disenchanted by the decision to allow gays to serve in the forces.

He said: "We have already called on the government to review their decision to overturn the ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces at the earliest opportunity and to let the armed forces decide if the policy was working.

"The government rejected this. However, when next in government, the Conservatives remain committed to letting the armed forces review the policy and assess whether or not it works.

"We will act on their recommendations. The government should match that pledge now or risk undermining the operational effectiveness of our armed forces."

The MoD was forced into a U-turn after the European Court of Human Rights ruled, in September, that the ban on gays was unlawful.

The court ruled that servicemen and women had a right to privacy which was being compromised by investigations by the military authorities into their sexuality.

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See also:
27 Sep 99 |  UK
Head to head: Gays in the military
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27 Sep 99 |  UK
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