Yesterday, US Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Charlie Rangel (D-NY) introduced legislation that would, if passed, ensure that LGB veterans who were discharged from the military due to their sexual orientation would have their discharges changed to honorable, and their benefits restored.
The “Restore Honor to Service Members Act” has a hundred cosponsors from both parties. The bill would impact some 114,000 service members from World War II until 2011, when all bans on same-sex attracted individuals were lifted.
Pocan, the cochair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, stated “For too long, tens of thousands of men and women who selflessly risked their lives for our country have lived with the dishonorable records that came from the unjust “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, but the support we have received for our legislation demonstrates the country’s strong desire to close the book on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and rightfully recognize the service of all of our courageous service members. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move forward with this effort and restore honor to all of our brave veterans.”
Rangel offered up his feelings saying “As an American, a Congressman, and a Korean War Veteran, I was proud to join my colleagues in ending the discriminatory law that previously barred open gay and lesbian soldiers from serving their country. Now is the time to finish the job and ensure that all those who served honorably are recognized for their Honorable service regardless of their sexual orientation.”
An other-than-honorable or dishonorable discharge can be just as bad as a felony conviction for someone. Besides being stripped of healthcare and pensions, a person wish such a discharge can find it hard to jobs and many are barred from voting, getting unemployment, receiving veteran benefits and so forth.
The RHSM Act would reverse the other-than-honorable or dishonorable status of the discharges of LGB service members so long as they were not discharged for any reason other than their sexual orientation. It will also remove any mention of their sexual orientation from their records, and mandate that the veterans get a timely, consistent and transparent review of their records so that they can be amended quickly.
Danny Ingram, the President of American Veterans for Equal Rights stated that “American Veterans For Equal Rights (AVER) wholeheartedly endorses and supports the Restore Honor to Service Members Act. Many thousands of LGBT service members were dishonorably discharged from WWII to 1994, prior to DADT, and thousands more under the DADT policy. Many elderly veterans urgently need access to the VA care which they are currently denied due to their discharges for being gay. The current process of discharge upgrades is extremely cumbersome and bureaucratic and can take over a decade in many cases. “
Marine Captain (ret) Anu Baghwati, the executive director of Service Women’s Action Network, added “The September 2011 repeal of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ created a brighter future for our LGBT service members, allowing them to serve openly without fear of harsh professional repercussions. But this victory for LGBT service members’ future cannot undo the injuries of the past. Now, SWAN thanks U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan and Charlie Rangel for seeking to do just that. The ‘Restore Honor to Service Members Act’ closes the loop on this discriminatory policy: wiping out dishonorable characterizations tied to sexual orientation and restoring honor to those from whom it was unjustly taken.”