Justice Delayed

A court case settlement has seen a bisexual Navy veteran have his service medals returned after twenty years – but the Ministry of Defence managed to erase bisexuals even in their apology.

Joe Ousalice, now 68, served in the Navy for nearly 18 years but was discharged in 1993 when there was a ban on bi and gay people serving in the armed forces. The Falklands veteran has at last got his medals back and received an apology from the Ministry of Defence, in a historic court settlement in a case brought by human rights organisation Liberty.

The MoD has agreed to return Joe’s medals, and say they will establish a new scheme so that other people in Joe’s situation can get their medals back.

Twenty years almost to the day from the ending of the armed services’ ban on bi and gay people serving it is remarkable that he had to go to court to get them.

The former radio operator, served in the Falklands War, did six tours of duty in Northern Ireland, was posted to the Middle East and was seconded for two and a half years to a leading NATO task force. 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 bisexuality, on the grounds that his conduct was “prejudicial to good order and naval discipline”.

On receiving the apology and on being told that he would have his medals restored and a new scheme set up for others like him, Joe said: “I should have always been judged on the basis of my exceptional service and not my sexuality. “History has shown us that a person’s sexuality has no bearing on how they perform in times of conflict. So many LGBT people were forced out of their wonderful careers and the consequences were devastating.

“It has taken me 27 years to resolve this and I had to take the MoD to court to get here. But I would like to acknowledge the apology finally offered to me today and urge the MoD to continue to do all it can to address the continuing and serious effects of its discrimination on LGBT veterans.”

The MoD’s apology read:

“Back in 1993, because of his sexuality, Mr Ousalice was treated in a way that would not be acceptable today and for that we apologise. In Mr Ousalice’s case, he was a former radio operator who served his country in the Falklands War and the Middle East, as well as six tours of Northern Ireland and was awarded a Long Service and Good Conduct medal in 1991 which we will now return to him in person.

“We accept our policy in respect of serving homosexuals in the military was wrong, discriminatory and unjust to the individuals involved.”

Good. If very overdue.

We’d have quite liked it if in an apology to a bisexual serviceman they could have mentioned that their ban extended to bi people as well as gay people.