The new head of MI6 has publicly apologized to agents who were expelled from the spy agency before 1991 when he implemented an “incorrect, unfair and discriminatory” ban on LGBT personnel in their ranks.
Richard Moore, also known as C, issued a short video statement acknowledging that “committed, talented, and public-spirited people had their careers and lives ruined” because they were told that gay people could not serve.
The problems continued after 1991, Moore acknowledged. LGBT staff who were employed when the ban ended were mistreated for not having previously disclosed their sexuality, he said, and others who joined after 1991 did not feel welcome.
During the cold war, same-sex relationships were believed to be a risk to national security, partly because of the prejudices of the time and partly because the information was thought to be used as a blackmail tool.
The ban lasted for almost a quarter century after homosexuality was decriminalized in 1967. MI6 said it could not say how many people had been expelled or prevented from joining for security reasons.
The practice of firing openly gay officers was widespread across Britain’s three spy agencies, especially in the case of Alan Turing. The mathematician and codebreaker was kicked out of GCHQ in the early 1950s after being convicted of having a gay relationship. He was subjected to chemical castration and subsequently committed suicide.
“Because of this policy, other loyal and patriotic people had their dreams of serving their country in MI6 shattered. This was wrong, it was unfair and discriminatory, ”Moore said in a rare video message scheduled to coincide with LGBT + history month.
“Today I apologize on behalf of MI6 for the way our LGBT + colleagues and fellow citizens were treated and I express my regret to those whose lives were affected. Being LGBT + did not make these people a threat to national security. Of course, no.”
The agency is keen to ditch the James Bond or Oxbridge footage of its agents in the belief that it urgently needs people who can operate effectively around the world as it focuses on Russia, China and the Middle East. On occasion, in recent years, it has lit up its Vauxhall headquarters in the rainbow colors of the pride flag.
“We still have more to do to become a fully inclusive employer, and my goal for MI6 is to make it a workplace where you can always bring your true self to work,” said Moore. “Diversity makes us more effective; inclusion makes us stronger. “
The Defense Ministry said earlier this week that it would allow former serving personnel to claim the medals taken from them when they were expelled from the military for being gay. The military’s ban on serving LGBT people remained in effect until 2000.
The action by the Defense Ministry was criticized for not going far enough because it did not address issues such as criminal convictions, lost ranks, and pension or compensation rights. Moore’s apology on behalf of MI6 also did not address any form of redress.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism