U.K. Ministry of Defence looking into return of medals for personnel discharged for their sexuality or offences that have been eliminated
LONDON, May 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A navy veteran who spent 18 years fighting for Britain said on Wednesday he is suing the government to get back medals that were removed when he was fired for being bisexual in 1993.
Joe Ousalice, a radio operator who served in the Falklands, Northern Ireland and the Middle East, had his Long Service and Good Conduct medals removed after being found guilty of "conduct prejudicial to good order and naval discipline".
"I was made to feel like I was disgusting," Ousalice said in a statement by Liberty, a human rights group backing his case.
"I was hounded out on some trumped up charges, and told that because I was attracted to men, my 18 years of service counted for nothing."
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it would be inappropriate to comment as legal proceedings are ongoing.
"We are currently looking at how personnel discharged from service because of their sexuality, or now abolished sexual offences, can have their medals returned," a spokeswoman said in emailed comments.
After a civilian conviction for gross indecency with another man - a charge Ousalice denies - he was accused of indecently assaulting another sailor, Liberty said. Ousalice was acquitted by court martial, but still dismissed, it said.
Between 100 and 200 LGBT+ people were discharged each year before the ban on LGBT+ military personnel was lifted in 2000, said Ed Hall, who founded the campaign to change the law, which was won in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 1999.
Hall, who was also fired from the navy for being gay, said the MoD was now "an outstanding LGBT+ employer" and he hoped it would accept that a man who was sacked for something which is now longer illegal "shouldn't continue to wear the scars".
About 50 to 60 people may have had medals stripped from them like Ousalice, said Duncan Lustig-Prean, one of the plaintiffs in the ECHR case, who is advising Liberty on Ousalice's case.
"All I want now is my medal and badges back, and recognition from the Government and the Royal Navy for all the years of service and hard work I gave them," Ousalice said.
"And I also want other LGBT veterans to know they're not alone, and that we all deserve the same recognition."