WELLINGTON, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand's most senior military commander on Friday welcomed his force's top ranking in a global index on the integration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) service personnel in the armed forces.
The New Zealand Defence Force's (NZDF) first place in the Netherlands-based Hague Centre for Strategic Studies index of LGBT integration in the armed forces of 103 countries was "a pleasant surprise", Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating said.
"The NZDF values diversity and recognizes the benefits to the organization of having a diverse and inclusive workplace. The diversity of our workplace reflects the composition of New Zealand society as well as the openness and respect that New Zealanders have for people of different backgrounds," Keating said in a statement.
"We believe that a diverse workplace promotes equity and enhances productivity. Having an inclusive environment that embraces people's individual differences provides opportunities for our personnel to achieve their full potential."
Last year, then Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones publicly defended 10 uniformed members of the NZDF who took part in the Auckland Pride gay festival.
In a letter to a member of the public who wrote to express his concern at serving members of the NZDF being allowed to march in the festival parade, Jones said he had given them permission to wear their uniforms.
"The uniform Defence Force members wear reflects a commitment they have made to serve their country. I have no doubt that during the parade they wore their uniform with pride and the community were able to acknowledge their service," Jones wrote.