UK’s Secret Service MI6 Issues Public Apology Over Historical Treatment Of LGBT+And Gay Ban.
THE NEW HEAD of MI6 has apologised publicly to officers who were dismissed from the spy agency before 1991 when it operated a “wrong, unjust and discriminatory” ban on LGBT staff in its ranks.
Richard Moore, also known as C, released a short video statement acknowledging that “committed, talented, public-spirited people had their careers and lives blighted” because they were told gay people could not serve.
Problems continued after 1991, Moore acknowledged. LGBT staff who were employed when the ban ended were treated badly for not previously disclosing their sexuality, he said, and others who joined after 1991 were made to feel unwelcome.
During the cold war, it was believed that same-sex relationships were a risk to national security, partly because of the prejudices of the time and partly because it was thought the information could be used as a tool for blackmail.
The ban persisted for nearly a quarter a century after homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967. MI6 said it was unable (not willing?) to say how many people had been thrown out or prevented from joining for security reasons.
The practice of dismissing openly homosexual agents ran across Britain’s three spy agencies, most notably in the case of Alan Turing. The mathematician and codebreaker was forced out of GCHQ in 1952 after he was convicted for having a gay relationship. He was subjected to chemical castration and subsequently killed himself years later.
“Because of this policy, other loyal and patriotic people had their dreams of serving their country in MI6 shattered. This was wrong, unjust and discriminatory,” Moore said in a rare video message timed to coincide with LGBT+ history month.
“Today I apologise on behalf of MI6 for the way our LGBT+ colleagues and fellow citizens were treated and express my regret to those whose lives were affected. Being LGBT+ did not make these people a national security threat. Of course not.”
Same-sex relationships were decriminalised in 1967 in the UK. However, the intelligence agencies kept the employment ban in place until 1991 because of the belief that they would be more at risk of blackmail.
Mr Moore added: “It meant that until 1991, being openly LGBT+ in MI6 would cause you to lose your job or prevent you from being allowed to join in the first place. “Committed, talented, public-spirited people had their careers and lives blighted because it was argued that being LGBT+ was incompatible with being an intelligence professional. Because of this policy, other loyal and patriotic people had their dreams of serving their country in MI6 shattered.
“This was wrong, unjust and discriminatory.”- Head of MI6
The recruitment restriction had been kept in force following a series of Cold War spy scandals involving gay men. At least two of the Cambridge Five spy ring, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, were gay, while a third, Donald Maclean, is believed to have been bisexual. Being gay was seen in Whitehall at the time as leaving people vulnerable to blackmail.
Stressing how attitudes had changed, Mr Moore said: “I pay tribute to the extraordinary resilience and loyalty to Service and country of LGBT+ colleagues past and present who slowly turned the tide by educating their workmates and fighting for change.”
MI6 still had work to do to become a “fully inclusive employer”, he added, where people could “always bring your true self to work”. The intelligence agency has stepped up its efforts to recruit people from all backgrounds, races, ages and sexualities.
“Diversity makes us more effective; inclusion makes us stronger,” added Mr Moore.
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