In U.K. Military, Gay Pride Shines

While the U.S. adheres to a "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays in the military, its staunchest ally across the Atlantic is nine years removed from dramatically changing its own stance toward gay and lesbian service members – allowing completely open military service without fear of reprisal. And nearly a decade after the policy shift, the U.K.'s Independent reports the British military and its members have grown pretty comfortable in their own skin.

Openly gay service was allowed in 2000 after a two-year court battle involving four service members that was eventually settled by the European Court of Human Rights. Since then, the report details a steady progression toward fuller openness – from initial reluctance on the part of gay service members to "out" themselves, despite the rule change, to eventually marching in Gay Pride parades and moving into military housing with their partners.

And this month's cover of Soldier magazine, the British Army's official publication, features openly gay Trooper James Wharton next to the headline "Pride."

Perhaps most telling of the British Army's success is the fact that, according to the report, senior U.S. military officials are quietly holding talks with their U.K. counterparts on how to best end "don't ask, don't tell," which has seen more than 13,000 service members discharged since its inception.

President Barack Obama has faced pressure from the gay and lesbian community since taking office for not supporting homosexual issues – military service being just one – as fully as he pledged during his campaign.

Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Pennsylvania Democrat and Iraq war veteran, called for the repeal of the military's current "discriminatory" practice of "don't ask, don't tell" earlier this month, noting the Mr. Obama had pledged to sign such legislation if Congress were to act on it.

U.S. public support also appears to be strengthening. A Gallup poll in May found 69 percent of Americans support lifting the ban on gays in the military. But the military has been noncommittal on the issue.

In the U.K., the report notes the military has met the transition with "surprising ease," with the only resistance coming from older senior non-commissioned and warrant officers. Even then, discriminatory incidents have been rare, officials say.

"I would be lying if I say there was no bullying that happened but it is certainly less than other offences such as racial or sexual harassment," Lieutenant Colonel Colin Bulleid of the British Army Equality and Diversity Policy Branch told the Independent.

"There has been no overt homophobic hate wave. We occasionally get the odd prat who behaves inappropriately. But he gets stamped on when he gets found out. We have a reasonably good complaints system."