LGBT+ equality / Soldiers' rights
MEDAL CEREMONY BITTERSWEET VICTORY FOR LIBERTY CLIENT
Posted on 24 Jan 2020
Ceremony marked an end to veteran’s 27-year battle for equality with MoD but Liberty calls on Government to recognise and compensate LGBT+ veterans
- Falklands veteran has medals restored by the Secretary of State for Defence
- Ceremony marks an end to 27-year battle for equality with MoD
- Liberty calls on Government to recognise and compensate LGBT+ veterans
Wednesday 22 January marked the end of a long-fought battle for equality as Joe Ousalice received the medals once stripped from him when he was discharged from the Navy due to his sexuality.
The Falklands veteran was represented by Liberty, the human rights organisation, who successfully won a case taken by Joe on the grounds of discrimination.
The 69-year-old had his Long Service and Good Conduct medal stripped from him when he was discharged in 1993 following 18 years of service.
After two and a half decades of failed attempts to have these returned, he sought help from Liberty to fight the legal action against the Government.
His medals were returned by Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth Harbour, marking an end to his battle. As part of the legal victory, Joe and Liberty ensured that a policy would be set up whereby other LGBT+ veterans could have their medals returned.
The MoD has not revealed how many people were discharged, or had their ranks and pensions reduced due to the ban on LGBT+ people serving in the armed forces, which was in place until 2000.
Days after the 20-year anniversary of the lifting of the ban, Liberty and Joe called on the MoD to provide compensation to LGBT+ veterans still suffering the effects of historic official discrimination.
Joe Ousalice said: “I’m delighted to finally get back my medal after so long fighting for it. Though this fight is done, it’s a bittersweet day as there are many like me who haven’t received full justice for our treatment. The Navy was my life and I loved it. I spent 18 years serving before losing my medal and having my rank and pension reduced and I know there are many like me who deserve to have this injustice recognised.”
Emma Norton, Joe’s solicitor and Head of Legal Casework at Liberty, said: “Today is a victory for equality and an important recognition of the impact of this discriminatory policy on our LGBT+ veteran community. Many are still suffering. The MoD has finally apologised and returned the medal – now they must commit to meaningful financial compensation for Joe and others like him.”
Joe, who now lives in Southampton, was a radio operator who served in the Falklands war and did six tours of duty in Northern Ireland. He was posted to the Middle East and spent two and a half years with a Nato taskforce.
He was awarded a Long Service & Good Conduct Medal and three Good Conduct badges – all stripped from him when he was dismissed because of his sexuality, on the grounds that his conduct was deemed to be ‘prejudicial to good order and naval discipline’.
While serving, Joe had to keep a large part of his life secret. In his first days of training it was made clear that he could not be open about who he was. It was during a court martial, in which he was found guilty of being in bed with another man (a charge he maintains was fabricated), that he says he was forced to disclose his sexuality.
Represented by Liberty, Joe took legal action against the MoD in May 2019. After initially aggressively resisting the claim, in December 2019, the MoD settled the case, issuing Joe a formal apology, promising to return his medals and ensure that other veterans in his situation would be able to get theirs back too.
The legal case was supported by the Michael Bishop Foundation.
Liberty’s work is supported by the generosity of the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.
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