On This Gay Day: Australia allowed gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military

In 1992 Australia allows gay and lesbian people to serve openly in the military

On this day back in 1992 the Keating government decreed that gay, lesbian and bisexual people could openly serve in the military. Prior to this personnel who were discovered to be same sex attracted were dismissed from their roles.

The decision followed a complaint to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission from a female reservist who claimed the ban was discriminatory. The commission called for a review of the longstanding ban leading to debate amongst politicians.

On November 23rd 1992 Prime Minister Paul Keating announced the decision to remove the ban, despite Defence Minister Robert Ray having stated in support for the current rules.

At the time Keating said the decision to lift the ban “reflected community support for the removal of employment discrimination and brings the ADF into line with tolerant attitudes of Australians generally… The ADF acknowledges there are male and female homosexuals among its members and has advised the Government that these members are no longer actively sought out or disciplined because of their sexual orientation.”

Alexander Downer, who was the Opposition spokesperson for defence, said if his Liberal party was elected the ban would be reinstated if the chiefs of the defence forces asked for it. However when the Howard government came to power they did not follow through with the promise.

It would be 2010 before transgender people were allowed to serve in the military. In 2002 the Defence Force Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Intersex Information Service (DEFGLIS) was founded providing support for LGBTIQ+ service personnel and their families.

In 2021 Defence Minister Peter Dutton ordered that IDABOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia), could no longer be marked by defence force personnel. The ban was overturned when the Albanese government was elected.

In 2021 a Royal Commision into veteran suicides commented. Among those giving testimony at the inquiry were many LGBT personnel who had been discharged from the armed forces over their sexuality.

OIP Staff, This post was first published in 2021 and has subsequently been updated. 

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