MI5 beats Arts Council in gay-friendly employer ranking

Secret Service praised for equal opportunities 20 years after lifting unofficial ban on gay spies

LAST UPDATED AT 11:14 ON Wed 11 Jan 2012

HOMOSEXUALS were once deemed too “vulnerable to blackmail” to become spies - but now MI5 has been listed as one of the top 100 gay-friendly employers in Britain.
 
The Security Service was today ranked 62 in the workplace equality index published by gay rights group Stonewall, beating both the Arts Council and Hackney Council, according to The Times.
 
Until 1989 the agency operated an unofficial ban on gay recruits, judging that their sexuality would make them too open to blackmail and therefore a threat to security.
 
One insider told the newspaper that two infamous gay spies, Anthony Blunt and Guy Burgess, cast a long shadow over the agency and until recently it was a difficult place to work if you were homosexual.
 
Blunt and Burgess were two ringleaders of the Cambridge Five, a group of graduates working in the service in the 1950s who passed secrets to the Russians – a real-life story that partly inspired John le Carré’s novel /Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy/.
 
Despite the pair’s sexuality being unconnected to their defection, the source says that in “corporate memory the two were inextricably linked and anyone who was gay just kept it well hidden”. 
 
However, prompted by a demand for talent and the need to expand following the 7 July bombings in 2005, the MI5 launched a recruitment drive for gay spies and worked with Stonewall to improve conditions for gay spies already in the service.
 
New policies and procedures were adopted to address prejudice against minorities, including gay people. There are now 100 openly gay employees who belong to a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group that meets regularly.
 
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, said MI5’s efforts had paid off and it was no longer the “clubby institution evoked by the novels of John le Carré and Graham Greene”.
 
The accountancy firm Ernst & Young was named gay-friendly employer of the year, followed in second place by the Home Office. · 

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