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British Court Backs Military Ban on Gays

November 04, 1995|From Times Wire Services

LONDON — The Court of Appeal on Friday upheld the British military's ban on homosexuals, although one justice said the policy was "ripe for review."

The three judges ruled that the military policy was neither irrational nor illegal.

"Although I am of the opinion that the current policy is ripe for review and for consideration of its replacement by a strict conduct code, I conclude that the appellants' attack on the secretary of state's rationality falls a long way short of success," Lord Justice Mathew Thorpe said.

The Defense Ministry is reviewing the policy and is expected to present its findings to Parliament next year.

The plaintiffs were Duncan Lustig-Prean, 36, a former lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy; Graeme Grady, 32, a former sergeant in the Royal Air Force; Jeanette Smith, 28, a former RAF nurse, and John Beckett, 25, a former Royal Navy weapons engineer.

Their attorney, David Pannick, argued before the court last month that it served "no coherent or legitimate purpose" to bar homosexuals who "keep their sexual orientation off-base in their private lives."

He contended that the policy breached equal treatment directives under the European Union and Britain's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The government's attorney, Stephen Richards, said the policy was "born of experience" and was necessary to maintain the morale and effectiveness of the armed forces.

The dismissed personnel pledged to take their case to the House of Lords, Britain's final court of appeal.

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