January 30, 2014 | by Chris Johnson
Schatz introduces bill for discharged gay veterans
Brian Schatz, Democratic Party, Hawaii, United States Senate, U.S. Congress, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) has introduced a bill to aid discharged gay veterans. (Photo public domain)

A Hawaii Democrat introduced on Thursday new legislation in the U.S. Senate that would ensure gay veterans discharged because of their sexual orientation have the designation of “honorable” discharge on their records.

The bill, known as the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, would apply to gay veterans who were in service prior to the lifting of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011, when the U.S. military expelled troops for being openly gay.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the chief sponsor, said “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal was “a watershed moment,” but his bill would address remaining issues for the estimated 114,000 service members expelled because of their sexual orientation since World War II.

“Yet thousands of former service members still bear the scars of that discrimination, with their military records tarnished with discharges other than honorable and marks on their records that compromise their right to privacy,” Schatz said. “Many of these brave men and women that served our country are currently barred from benefits that they earned and are entitled to, and in the most egregious cases they are prevented from legally calling themselves a veteran. This needs to be corrected now.”

Although many service members were given an “honorable” discharge from the military if they were expelled because of their sexual orientation, others were given “other than honorable,” “general discharge” or “dishonorable” discharge.

As a consequence, these former troops may be disqualified from accessing certain benefits, such as GI bill tuition assistance and veterans’ health care, and may not be able to claim veteran status. In some cases, they may be prevented from voting or have difficulty acquiring civilian employment.

Even troops who received “honorable” discharges may have difficulties in the aftermath of their service because their sexual orientation may be identified as the reason for the discharge.

Although an administrative process already exists for service members to change their records, the proposed legislation would streamline the process to ensure these designations don’t impair former members of the armed forces.

Joining Schatz in introducing the legislation is Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who said allowing service members to change their discharges if they were expelled because of their sexual orientation demands immediate attention.

“A clean, honorable record is long overdue for veterans who were discharged solely because of who they love,” Gillibrand said. “Our veterans served our country courageously and with dignity and we must act to give them the appropriate recognition they deserve.”

The legislation has 17 co-sponsors — all Democrats. They are Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Gillibrand, Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Denny Meyer, national public affairs officer for the LGBT group known as American Veterans for Equal Rights, said her organization supports the bill.

“LGBT veterans who served and sacrificed in silence during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as those who served before and during ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ in the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, deserve to see their service recognized and honored at long last,” Meyer said. “We endorse and support the efforts by Senators Schatz and Gillibrand and Congressmen Pocan and Rangel to move forward the Restoring Honor to Our Service Members Act, which will accelerate discharge upgrades.”

In joint statement, gay Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), who are taking the lead on the legislation in the House, commended the senators for introducing the Senate companion.

“This bill would close the book on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and provide tens of thousands of gay veterans, who selflessly risked their lives for our nation,” Pocan and Rangel said. “Our bill already has the support of more than 140 House members, and we look forward to working with Senators Schatz and Gillibrand to ensure it can pass Congress and get to the President’s desk.”

Upon the introduction of the bill in July 2013, Rangel said during a conference call with Pocan he wants the White House and the Pentagon to support the legislation.

“We’re hoping we get this involved in the Department of Defense,” Rangel said at the time. “We hope, too — we haven’t talked about it, Mark — but there’s no question we’re looking to get White House support as well.”

Seven months later at the time of Senate introduction, the White House still hasn’t spoken out. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on the bill.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

16 Comments
  • Thank you from one veteran.

  • I hope this bill passes quickly. I was discharged in the 60′s for being gay. I was given a General Discharge under Honorable conditions. To me that was a slap in the face. I did everything I was asked to do and did it. I tried for over 40 years to have it upgraded to a full Honorable under Honorable. With the help of SLDN (prior to the merge with Out Serve) they helped me get it upgraded because of the repeal of DADT. I NEVER violated ANY of the UCMJ. I won’t go into the humiliation I was put through and the threats of superiors nor what else happened to me. This Bill NEEDS to pass ! !

  • The most important part of the bill getting too little attention in most articles is the removal of all narrative and coding referencing homosexuality on the person's DD214 long form (or predecessor forms). For as the General Accounting Office's June 1992 report to members of Congress, “Defense Force Management – DOD’s Policy on Homosexuality,” documented among the some 17,000 discharges for homosexuality between 1980 and 1990, i.e., even before DADT, “Almost 95 percent receiv[ed] an honorable or general discharge.” NONE of this justifies any discharges simply for being gay, but the details behind them are very different from the popular myth. Many thanks to cosponsors in both houses.

  • Dominick J. Di Noto

    I would hope this bill passes quickly with a unanimous Vote YEY..

  • i would like this removal as well the removal of all narrative and coding referencing homosexuality on the person’s DD214 long form (or predecessor forms). For as the General Accounting Office’s June 1992 report to members of Congress, “Defense Force Management – DOD’s Policy on Homosexuality,” documented among the some 17,000 discharges for homosexuality between 1980 and 1990, i.e., even before DADT, “Almost 95 percent receiv[ed] an honorable or general discharge.” NONE of this justifies any discharges simply for being gay, but the details behind them are very different from the popular myth. Many thanks to cosponsors in both houses.

  • At last! I've finally found where I can express all my great and immense admiration for the US Marine naval and military, finally I can tell everyone when I love you and that would have given by found in my life see a correct and healthy friendship, to share the most out of life.

    Finally I found in one of the groups Gays on Facebook, your group of veteran US America Honorable LGBT news, this news "" Schatz introduces bill for discharged gay veterans' ". Finally today and once more see that it is never late when joy is infinitely precious!

    I wish you and I need to leave my congratulations to all of you and who miraculously wrote this Regal and bright story of Chris Johnson, who has given me the precious and valuable opportunity to express myself as I am, I am and I wish…

    Please only I want and need to find among you friendship so I need… Why s leave this beautiful phrase "" all the world has someone of you ""
    Less I""

    My greeting more endearing and always full of admiration, from Barcelona, Spain. Yor Alvarez

    ((I will share your story on my my Facebook profile.))

  • Brian Christopher Henley

    Sign my petition at the White House website regarding DD214's and discharged gay veterans. I need 150 signers and then it gets published. Follow the link and sign if you like this story and what the Senator is doing: http://wh.gov/lRI4d

  • Brian Christopher Henley

    Sign this petition to support the Senator's legislation: http://wh.gov/lRI4d

  • Brian Christopher Henley

    Sign the petition to advance the Bill at http://wh.gov/lRI4d

  • Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the chief sponsor, said “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal was “a watershed moment,” but his bill would address remaining issues for the estimated 114,000 service members expelled because of their sexual orientation since World War II.
    oUTSTANDiNG ;)

  • Proud of our Senator; we have met and talked with him when he was Lt. Governor. He was in favor of Marriage Equality long before it became legalized in Hawaii.

  • David Shaw . I'm so impressed with so many in Hawaii like yourself; Rep. Chris Lee (in the House) & Senator Schatz is wonderful…- .Brian Christopher Henley has been the leading activist with this cause and has been in meetings with the delegation from Florida including Senator Nelson & we are so excited about this. It's been a long time coming & Sen Schatz had the motivation and push. We need to always support allies who support us. I'm involved in the Florida Governor's race supporting Former Senator Nan Rich (D) who within 4% of Gov Rick Scott . I think this will be my last political race.

  • Brian Christopher Henley

    40 signers….110 to go

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.
Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin