The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community is constantly striving for equality in all areas of life, including the workplace. Many militaries have been known to exclude people who fell under the LGBT umbrella term, with a lot of countries still banning homosexuals and bisexuals. The recent controversy in the media around the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy of the US military has brought the spotlight on sexual discrimination among nations’ armed forces. According to the U.S. policies, LGBT people were allowed to join the military – as long as they were not open about their sexuality.
The DADT policy was repealed in 2010 (effective 2011), but not before over 13,600 troops had been discharged because of the legislation. LGB people can now serve openly in the US armed forces (though the transgender population are still barred). The US does not have a glass ceiling for LGB personnel; for example, lesbian officer Tammy Smith became a Brigadier General in the US Army Reserve in 2012. However, the legacy of the DADT policy is still felt; in terms of military inclusion of sexual minorities, the USA doesn’t manage to make the top 10, coming in at a rather shameful 40th place, sandwiched between Malta and Poland.
The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS) is a relatively young think tank, founded in 2007 and based in the Netherlands. Experienced researchers and analysts get together to study policies and the media to discern certain strategic data based on their findings. The HCSS has recently been recognized for their creation of an LGBT Military Index in which they ranked over 100 countries by the inclusiveness of their military. By comparing subjects such as inclusion, admission, tolerance, exclusion and persecution the HCSS managed to score national militaries’ openness to sexual minorities and inclusiveness from zero to 100. The US scored 72.8 (mean 56.3), well above China (41.5), India (34.0) and Russia (32.5). The worst-scoring country included was Nigeria at 3.0 with Turkey being the lowest-scoring country in the region of Europe, at 30.5.
The political map of scores is revealing. Countries in Africa and Asia generally score the lowest (with the exceptions of South Africa at 88.3, Japan at 78.5 and the country at eighth place on the list). This demonstrates that LGBT inclusion and tolerance can be linked to a country’s social and economic development. Here, we’re having a look at the 10 countries with the greatest degree of inclusion and the factors that contribute to this success.
10. Germany: 90.8 LGBT MI
Germany has a forward-thinking attitude toward sexuality and its armed forces, believing that what military personnel’s personal relationships are irrelevant to military duty. There was a ban on homosexual people becoming officers as recently as 2000, but the German government has now removed that limit. There is no tolerance in the armed forces for the harassment of others because of their sexual preferences, an attitude which is representative of the approach to the rights of sexual minorities in Germany in general.
9. Spain and France: 91.8 LGBT MI
Two more European economic powerhouses with strongly inclusive social policies occupy a position on this list. France is believed to operate a policy of indifference in regard to LGBT people serving in its armed forces, although these personnel can still be discharged by their commanders if it is felt their inclusion is causing disruption in their units. In Spain, there are no sexuality obstacles for members of the LGBT community in joining the military.
8. Israel: 92.0 LGBT MI
Israel leads the way for LGBT Military Inclusion in both Asia and the Middle East. The country’s neighbors have poor records for LGBT personnel: Egypt scores a lowly 25.5, Saudi Arabia scores with 11.0 and Syria is the third-lowest scoring country included in the index, on 7.0. Official policy for the Israeli Defense Forces is that sexual orientation is a non-issue; however, there have been reports of homophobia and violence toward LGBT military personnel. As a whole, though, the IDF is tolerant towards the inclusion of minorities in its ranks.
7. Belgium: 93.0 LGBT MI
Belgium has a similar stance to LGBT military personnel as France. The official stance is that the military service is open to members of the sexual minority community. However, if an individual is found to be disruptive (or too open with their sexuality) then they can be dismissed or transferred on those grounds. It has also been reported that the Belgian military prevents LGBT people from gaining the highest levels of security clearance in case they become targets for blackmail.
6. Denmark: 93.5 LGBT MI
Scandinavian countries are renowned for their social tolerance and the countries in this region usually enjoy high ranks in the Human Development Index (HDI) published by the UN (Norway is frequently ranked the country with the world’s highest HDI). Naturally this social tolerance extends to LGBT community’s service in the military and studies have shown that gay members of the Danish Armed Forces are treated with respect and show as much strength and resilience as their heterosexual counterparts.
5. Canada: 94.3 LGBT MI
Leading the way for the Americas is Canada (Uruguay on 89.5 and Argentina on 88.8 are the highest-ranked South American nations). Canada’s military has allowed same-sex military marriages and many of its members have marched in Pride parades, helping demonstrate to the LGBT community that Canada has an accepting and tolerant military. It is a world away from the 1967 military order Sexual Deviation – Investigation, Medical Investigation and Disposal that allowed the investigation and subsequent discharge of troops who were suspected of being homosexual. Canada has moved on leaps and bounds since then and is now a world leader in gay rights; in 2005 it was only the fourth country in the world to legalize gay marriage.
4. Australia: 95.0 LGBT MI
Social research has upheld what gay rights supporters have forever maintained; that Australia’s policy of allowing openly LGBT members into its forces has had no negative impact in key areas such as combat effectiveness and morale. The tolerance of the Australian Defence Force is such that a transgender trooper has managed to reach the high rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Cate McGregor (formerly Malcolm McGregor) offered to resign from her lofty position when she went public, but her resignation was refused by the Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison. McGregor was concerned that she was embarrassing his office (she is Morrison’s speechwriter) but clearly her commanding officer judged her appropriately on merit rather than gender identity.
3. Sweden: 97.5 LGBT MI
Sweden’s extremely high score is indicative of the country’s general social policies, especially in regard to LGBT rights. Homosexuals can serve openly in the Swedish military and there are even regulations put in place to ensure that members of the LGBT community do not face any discrimination whilst serving for their country.
2. UK and Netherlands: 98.0 LGBT MI
It is no real surprise to see the Netherlands so high up on this list, as their liberal nature is world-famous. The Netherlands was the first country to allow gay military members (in 1974) and was the centre of a controversy when former US general John Sheehan accused the Dutch of allowing the 1995 Srebrenica massacre because of homosexual soldiers making their force weaker. Sheehan later apologized and withdrew his comments.
Perhaps a more surprising tie for 2nd place is the UK; since 2000, the UK has made massive progress in LGBT inclusion in the military. From an institution that was once perceived as riddled with homophobia, British forces now allow openly LGBT personnel, actively recruit from the LGBT community and give personnel permission to march in uniform at gay pride events.
1. New Zealand: 100 LGBT MI
New Zealand wields a perfect score of 100 on the HCSS LGBT Military Index. There are support networks in place for LGBT members of New Zealand’s military, which has allowed gay applicants since 1993. The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) created a video called It Gets Better, especially aimed at its members who were struggling to be open about their sexuality. Commanders in New Zealand’s military have gone on record stating their pride in the country’s LGBT inclusion policies and promising to continue the NZDF’s commitment to being an equal opportunities employer.