January 22, 2020 / 7:08 PM / a month ago

British veteran vows to fight on for LGBT+ rights after regaining medal

PORTSMOUTH, England (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A war veteran who regained his medal on Wednesday, almost 30 years after he was dismissed from Britain’s Royal Navy because of his sexuality, said he would fight for compensation for other LGBT+ people thrown out of the armed forces.

Joe Ousalice, 69, was presented with his medal for good conduct and long service by Britain’s defense secretary at a ceremony in Portsmouth, a southern English town steeped in naval history.

Ousalice, who is bisexual, said he was “elated” but added that the fight to be treated equally by the Ministry of Defense would continue.

“I’ve got my medal now and it would be a nice gesture by the armed forces if they could pay compensation for the hundreds of others who have gone through (a) not dissimilar situation that I went through,” he said.

Ousalice, a radio operator who served in the Falklands, Northern Ireland and the Middle East, had his medal removed after being found guilty of “conduct prejudicial to good order and naval discipline”.

After a civilian conviction for gross indecency with another man – a charge Ousalice denies – he was accused of indecently assaulting another sailor, said human rights group Liberty, which represented him in his battle to regain his medal.

Ousalice was acquitted by court martial, but still dismissed in 1993. Before he was dismissed he was demoted to a lower rank, which is reflected in his navy pension.

“I lost my home in the West Country, I lost my girlfriend, I went heavily into debt and it took me 10 years to get back on my feet,” Ousalice told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Portsmouth.

Britain removed its ban on LGBT+ military personnel in 2000 following a victory by campaigners at the European Court of Human Rights.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement that the way Ousalice and other were treated had been unacceptable.

“I can only apologize,” he said. “We should also take comfort from how much the Armed Forces have changed in recent years, becoming the diverse employer they are today.”

The Ministry of Defence declined to comment further on calls for compensation.

Ousalice said before his next campaign started, he would first catch up on much-needed sleep.

“But one thing (the Ministry of Defence) is aware of now is that they haven’t seen the last of me until this has been resolved,” he said.

Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org

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