Bicameral Bill Would Help Recognize Gay and Lesbian Service Members for Honorable Military Service
Washington, DC - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and 21 senators to introduce the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, a bill that will help service members discharged solely due to their sexual orientation correct their military records to reflect their honorable service and reinstate the benefits they earned. A companion bill has been introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Charles Rangel (D-NY) in the House of Representatives.
"Too many of our brave service members were wrongly discharged due to a discriminatory policy," Bennet said. "‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was a backward looking policy that undermined our national security and stood contrary to our national values. It's time to take steps that will help ensure these men and women receive the benefits they rightfully earned."
"From the repeal of ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' to the Supreme Court's historic ruling on marriage equality, we have made great strides in the fight to end discrimination. But there is still more work to be done to protect and promote full equality and ensure we help right our past wrongs," said Senator Schatz. "Today, thousands of brave men and women who served our country are still denied the benefits and honorable service record they deserve. It's long past time we honor our commitment to all our service members and finally restore the dignity of gay and lesbian veterans who were unjustly discharged from our military."
Since World War II, more than 100,000 Americans are estimated to have been discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation. Those forced out of the military may have left with discharge statuses of "other than honorable," "general discharge" or "dishonorable," depending on the circumstances. As a consequence, many of these service members may be disqualified from accessing certain benefits that they earned and are entitled to, and may not be able to claim veteran status. 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 bill is supported by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, VoteVets.org, OutServe-SLDN, the Human Rights Campaign, American Veterans for Equal Rights, Lambda Legal, Swords to Plowshares, the American Bar Association, Universal Unitarian Association, and the American Humanist Association.
The Restore Honor to Service Members Act is also cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai'i), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). In addition to Representatives Pocan and Rangel, the bill has 97 cosponsors and has bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.
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