The Commons voted Wednesday night to repeal regulations making homosexuality a criminal offense in the Armed Forces.
Defense Minister Jonathan Aitken cautioned that those taking part in homosexual activity would still be dismissed from the armed forces.The difference, he said, is that now they will not risk having a criminal record because of their sexual preference.
Peter Tatchell, a spokesman for OutRage, a group that defends the rights of homosexuals, said that "by this decision the Government is reiterating its support for institutionalized discrimination against the homosexual community.
"It means that every year about 70 lesbians and gay men will continue to be drummed out of the armed forces because of their homosexual orientation."
Actor Michael Cashman, chair of gay rights group Stonewall, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that discharge for homosexuality could still destroy careers.
"Your discharge papers would have `service no longer required' on them, which could severely damage careers in civilian life," he said.
Cashman welcomed the "small, brave step" but said the government had to go further.
"Apart from America, we are the only country in NATO that forbids lesbians and gay men serving in the Armed Services," he said. "It's a very valid point, because we will have British soldiers serving side by side with lesbian and gay service people."
"It doesn't seem to have affected morale and order in those countries," Cashman said.