FDA celebrates LGBT History Month

Civil service diversity champion Sir Paul Jenkins speaks at the FDA's LGBT History Month event

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In mid-February, around 60 people from more than a dozen different departments attended the FDA LGBT History Month event, celebrating the lives and achievements of the LGBT community.

In-keeping with the 2013 LGBT History Month theme of maths, science and engineering, the FDA's event - organised with Prospect and colleagues in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) LGBT Network - was held in the Henry VIII wine cellar, in the MoD Main Building in central London.

Philip Oliver, chair of the MoD LGBT steering committee, told how those present were stood "in a point of history" - what was Henry VIII's court in 1533, when a law was first passed to make homosexuality punishable by the death penalty. He spoke of the "tremendous amount of change" that the MoD has gone through, and that "three of [MoD's] four main organisations have featured in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index Top 100".

Head of the Government legal service and civil service diversity champion Sir Paul Jenkins spoke about the "moral case" for the recent House of Commons vote to legalise gay marriage. He also quoted statistics from a recent Civil Service Rainbow Alliance (CSRA) report, which stated that between 23% and 30% said that the civil service reputation as an LGBT-friendly employer was a factor in their decision to join the organisation. However, he admitted that there is more work to be done.

FDA Executive Committee member Roland Zollner shared the tragic story of Alan Turing, an integral code-breaker at Bletchley Park during World War II who was prosecuted for having a sexual relationship with a man and punished with chemical castration. Zollner used this to illustrate the problems of working in a difficult environment, linking it specifically to civil servants working abroad in a homophobic environment and to the changes brought about in the Ministry of Defence in introducing LGBT-friendly policies.

Find out more about the FDA's LGBT Network (link available to members only).

To learn about LGBT History Month, please go to the LGBT History Month website