For the first time in its history the British Army’s official publication, Soldier magazine, has featured an openly gay officer, James Wharton, on its cover. The issue marks almost a decade in which gay and lesbian soldiers have been allowed to serve in the military in Britain.

The change in policy came about in 2000 when the European Court of Human Rights passed a ruling that would allow gay men and women to serve in the army without hiding their sexuality.

The ruling came after a two year legal battle involving three gay men and a lesbian, who had been discharged from the Royal Navy and RAF after being found to be gay.

The military has since been very vocal about its support of its lesbian and gay staff and now advertises in the gay press for recruits. British servicemen and women even take part in Pride parades in uniform.

Wharton explained in his interview with Soldier that instead of being oppressed, gay and lesbian Army personnel are now given full support. “I came out to the Army before I told my parents, so that says a lot for the Armed Forces,” said the 22-year-old. “I told the Army in March 2003, after all my initial training was over – I was 18. I have always known I was gay but it wasn’t until then that I told anyone.”

Senior British officials are reportedly in talks with their American counterparts in order to advise in changing the US’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which bans LGBT personnel in the military and has seen over 12 500 members being discharged since its inception 16 years ago.

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