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Schatz introduces bill for discharged gay veterans

‘Restore Honor to Service Members Act’ would streamline process to change paperwork

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Brian Schatz, Democratic Party, Hawaii, United States Senate, U.S. Congress, gay news, Washington Blade
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.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Brenda

    January 30, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Thank you from one veteran.

  2. JP

    January 30, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    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 ! !

  3. Michael Bedwell

    January 31, 2014 at 1:42 am

    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.

  4. Dominick J. Di Noto

    January 31, 2014 at 2:51 am

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

  5. james anderson

    January 31, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    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.

  6. Yor Alvarez

    January 31, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    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.))

  7. Adam Everett Colclasure

    February 1, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you,Senator Schatz.

  8. Brian Christopher Henley

    February 3, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    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

  9. Brian Christopher Henley

    February 3, 2014 at 4:10 pm

  10. Brian Christopher Henley

    February 3, 2014 at 11:19 pm

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

  11. Brian Christopher Henley

    February 4, 2014 at 12:02 am

  12. Brian Christopher Henley

    February 4, 2014 at 2:24 am

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

  13. David Futrelle

    February 4, 2014 at 3:55 am

    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 ;)

  14. David Shaw

    February 4, 2014 at 4:17 am

    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.

  15. David Futrelle

    February 4, 2014 at 4:28 am

    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.

  16. Brian Christopher Henley

    February 4, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    40 signers….110 to go

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Virginia

Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Local

Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

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(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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En Espanol

Matrimonio igualitario a un paso de ser ley en Chile

Solo falta una última votación en el Senado

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Una manifestación en favor del matrimonio igualitario en Santiago, Chile, en 2017. (Foto cortesía de Francisca Becker)

VALPARAÍSO, Chile — Como un triunfo “histórico” para los derechos de la diversidad sexual y de género, calificaron los activistas LGBTQ en Chile el avance del proyecto de ley de matrimonio igualitario el martes en el Congreso. Ahora solo falta una última votación en el Senado para convertirse en ley.

“Con 101 votos a favor, 30 en contra y dos abstenciones se aprueba el proyecto de ley que regula el matrimonio igualitario, que pasa a su tercer y último trámite en el Senado”, ha informado el Congreso Nacional chileno en un comunicado.

La votación se enmarca en uno de los momentos políticos más complejos para la población queer de ese país latinoamericano, luego de que el pasado domingo en las elecciones presidenciales y de congresistas la ultraderecha y anti-LGBTQ liderada por el candidato presidencial, José Antonio Kast del Partido Repúblicano obtuvieran un buen desempeño electoral.

Kast, que ha afirmado en muchas ocasiones que existe un “lobby gay” que “busca influir a las personas”, fue el candidato más votado y se enfrentará en el balotaje del 19 de diciembre al izquierdista Gabriel Boric.

“Frente a los discursos de violencia y odio, hace falta responder con amor. No queremos sesgos dogmáticos ultra ideologizados”, apuntó el diputado Diego Ibáñez, del Frente Amplio, la coalición que lidera Boric.

El proyecto de matrimonio igualitario fue firmado por la expresidenta Michelle Bachelet en 2017 y presentado ante el Congreso durante su segundo mandato. Sin embargo, no fue hasta enero de 2020 cuando la sala del Senado aprobó en general el proyecto con 22 votos a favor, 16 en contra y una abstención.

Posteriormente, el presidente del país, Sebastián Piñera, mostró su apoyo a la medida y ordenó suma urgencia.”Pienso que ha llegado el tiempo de garantizar esa libertad y esa dignidad a todas las personas, el tiempo del matrimonio igualitario en nuestro país”, dijo el jefe de Estado en su última cuenta pública.

“Luego de tres décadas de lucha, falta solo un trámite en el Senado para conquistar la hasta ahora esquiva igualdad legal que merece todas las parejas y familias”, destacó la vocera del Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual (Movilh), Javiera Zúñiga, a través de un comunicado de prensa.

“Festejamos este nuevo paso, ahora con la total convicción de que estamos en la recta final. Especialmente felices porque se aprobaron por amplia mayoría todos las indicaciones sobre filiación y adopción homoparental que introducimos en la Cámara. Hablamos de 30 años de lucha, pero de siglos de segregación, cuyos días están contados, lo cual terminará con las injusticias y desigualdades que sufren las parejas del mismo sexo y las familias homoparentales”, añadió Zúñiga.

De no ser aprobado en el Senado, el proyecto de ley pasaría a una comisión mixta. Sin embargo, la actual presidenta de la Cámara Alta se comprometió a realizar su mayor esfuerzo para que sea despachado lo antes posible.

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