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Fighting Under The Rainbow Flag


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Fighting Under The Rainbow Flag

by Peter Moore 365Gay.com, London Bureau

Posted: August 26, 2005 5:00 pm ET

(London) They fight side by side in Iraq. They win some battles and lose others. Both armies are desperately trying to bolster troop strength. But, the way the US and the British military are going about finding new recruits shows the marked differences between their cultures.

This weekend, the British Army, Air Force and Navy will be marching in Manchester's Gay Pride Parade in a bid to encourage gays and lesbians to enlist. A recruitment booth will be set up in the city's gay neighborhood where the Army will tell prospective recruits about partner benefits and couple's housing.

"I think it's great the army is coming,'' said festival director Claire Turner. "They're showing that they welcome gay people and the army is something gay people can be interested in.''

Lt.-Col. Leanda Pitt, who commands recruiting efforts for the army in and around Manchester, said the parade was an opportunity to try and find new personnel.

"As far as the army is concerned, sexual orientation is a private matter and we are intending to promote the benefits a career in the army can bring,'' Pitt said. "Over the three days we will be able to reach a large audience and also enjoy the atmosphere that the festival brings to the city.''

The festival, which runs from Friday through Sunday, is expected to draw 45,000 people.

The British government lifted a ban on gays serving in the armed forces in 2000 after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the restriction was a violation of human rights.

The British soldiers will be joined by their peers in the Royal Air Force, organizers said. Twenty RAF personnel will attend and have a float featuring the cockpit of a plane planned for the parade.

In the United States, out gays are not permitted in the military. A decade ago President Bill Clinton signed 'don't ask, don't tell' a law which while maintaining the gay ban forbade the military from probing into the private lives of soldiers suspected of being gay. But, if a servicemember's sexuality became known in other ways - including that person outing themself - he or she could be drummed out of the service.

Under 'don't ask, don't tell' more than 10,000 service members have been discharged over the last 10 years under the policy according to statistics from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

A February report by the Government Accounting Office shows that don’t ask, don’t tell' has cost taxpayers more than $200 million.

Legislation to repeal 'don’t ask, don’t tell' was introduced in Congress in March. (story)

©365Gay.com 2005

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