The bill, reintroduced by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), will correct the military records of service members discharged solely due to their sexual orientation to reflect their honorable service and reinstate the benefits they earned.
“I’m leading this effort in honor of courageous veterans like Ed Spires, who served our country with dignity and distinction and nevertheless suffered the stain and shame of an undesirable discharge,” said Blumenthal.
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Blumenthal expressed that this legislation was design to repair decades of discrimination in our nation’s military.
Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was an historic milestone for our military and for equality in America, but it was only the beginning of the work we must accomplish to repair the damage caused by decades of discrimination. This bill will help restore honor to the thousands of veterans discharged from the military due to their sexual orientation-a terrible injustice that our country has a duty and obligation to correct.”
Since World War II, it is estimated that more than 100,000 Americans have been discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation. Depending on the circumstances, those forced out of the military may have left with discharge statuses of “dishonorable,” “general discharge,” or “other than honorable.”
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Many of these service members may not be able to claim veteran status, and may be disqualified from accessing certain benefits that they earned and are entitled to as a result. The consequences of a negative discharge also include preventing some veterans from voting or making it more difficult for them to acquire civilian employment.
The legislation is supported by OutServe-SLDN, the Human Rights Campaign, American Veterans for Equal Rights, the American Bar Association, Universal Unitarian Association, and the American Humanist Association, and has 107 cosponsors.
The bill is backed by bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, and is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
“LGBT rights are human rights, period,” said Murphy. “It’s a stain on our country that thousands of men and women who served our nation were discharged solely because of who they love. We owe it to them to restore not only the benefits they earned, but the dignity of their service to our country.”